Plays Directory : Scenes from an Execution

Welcome to The Mandy Network Plays Directory.

The information below is intended to give you a brief guide to the show and highlight some of the other The Mandy Network members who have also been involved in this show.

  • Author
    Howard Barker
  • Written
    1984
  • Setting
    17th Century Venice
  • Overview
    How can an artist reconcile her integrity with the demands of the world she lives in? In Howard Barker’s scintillating 1984 play, the role and responsibility of art in society, and the pressures brought to bear upon it by politics and patronage, are dazzlingly dramatised.

    In 17th-century Venice Galactia, a painter, is commissioned by the Doge to create a work depicting the Battle of Lepanto. But while he hopes for a piece of tub-thumping, glorifying patriotism, Galactia is set on representing the full horror of war. Beset by the arguments of rival, more commercially pliable painters — one of whom is her young married lover — by the machinations of an influential critic, and above all those of Church and State, she must ultimately choose between a path of compromise or resolve to uphold her principles — perhaps at the cost of her voice being silenced and her work remaining unseen forever.

    Strikingly illustrating the way in which mass slaughter can be spun by those in positions of power, the play has a renewed timeliness. And it addresses the tension between the esoteric and the mundane astutely and often with an earthy directness. “I will negotiate with power because I have to,” Galactia tells her anxious daughter. “I will lick the Doge’s crevices if need be, because he has power. I am not wholly an idiot and I like to eat and drink as well as you.” The piece’s central character is compellingly complex and vivid: a middle-aged woman who is ferociously intelligent, courageous, pungently sexual without, as her lover points out, being conventionally beautiful, generous of spirit, filled with anger and humanity.

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