Giovanni and Annabella are lovers. They are also brother and sister, the protagonists in John Ford’s 400 year old play about forbidden love.
Tis Pity She’s a Whore was first performed sometime between 1629 and 1633 by Queen Henrietta’s Men at the Cockpit Theatre in London. The title was often changed to Giovanni and Annabella, The Brother and Sister or simply Tis Pity. A recent revival has just completed its season at Shakespeare’s Globe in the intimate, candlelit enclave, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, featuring Max Bennett and Fiona Button as the doomed romantic leads on the path to tragedy.
Critics were unanimous in their praise or Michael Longhurst’s brilliant production which was not always the case with this play until well into the twentieth century. The play’s treatment of incest made it one of the most controversial works in English literature but is now regarded as a classic. Ford, the major playwright during the reign of Charles I, often dealt with conflicts between individual passion, conscience and society’s laws and morals.
In fact, Transport for London apparently banned posters showing the entwined naked torsos of the siblings, deeming them too racy for tired commuters.
The Globe’s production of this unsettling Renaissance incestuous drama was described as a no-holds-barred interpretation. One reviewer said, “it’s not just the candle flames that are naked.” The Telegraph’s Tim Walker called Max and Fiona’s portrayals, “electrifying”.