Botticelli in the Fire, Hampstead Theatre - ★★ - Until November 23, 2019


The lives and times of Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Lorenzo de' Medici are only a pretext in this play which does not pretend to historical accuracy and blithely mixes 21st century dress, gadgets and references into a story that is equally genre-fluid combining elements of pantomime, farce and gay love story. The intrigue and complex relationship between art and politics in Renaissance Florence is given a nod as are the historical events of the plague, Savonarola's Christian fundamentalist sermons, and the infamous bonfire of the vanities. But ultimately, the play's narrative is about Botticelli's multifaceted lusts, which include Clarice Orsini and Leonardo, and his attempt to cultivate Lorenzo, his squash partner while seducing his wife. It all ends badly when he destroys "The Birth of Venus" in a manner which may anticipate Jackson Pollock's work many centuries later, but not to worry. This is the theatre of experience and it is impossible to predict what will come next. The tableau of Botticelli's great painting comes out of nowhere and the fire that represents the bonfire is a spectacular piece of stagecraft. This is not theatre for everyone, but as a sometimes amusing and thoroughly unpredictable event, go for it. And who wouldn't like a work that ends with the lovers sharing a peanut butter sandwich?

Reviewed by J.C.

 Our Score:  ☆☆

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WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until November 23, 2019
Mon - Sat: 7:30 pm, Tue: 2:30 pm & Sat: 3 pm
Hampstead Theatre
Nearest tube: Swiss Cottage
https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2019/botticelli-in-the-fire/

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