theSpace @ Surgeons Hall – until 28 August 2021
Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s raunchy, eccentric and outrageous sex life has been written and brought to the stage by writer and director Joan Greening in Rossetti’s Women.
Rossetti had been the founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a renowned painter, poet and translator. From watching this performance I understand that his personal life would have certainly befitted the pages of a 19th century debauchery novel.
The audience is cast back in time as we hear Dante’s life is explained through the thoughts and conversations held between his long-standing fiancee and wife Lizzie Siddal (Emma Hopkins), Fanny Cornforth (Julia Munrow), one of his muses and prostitute mistress, and the social climber Jane (Sarah Archer). Each desperate for his undivided attention and affection.
After a traumatic time in their marriage and in a desperate attempt to secure his attentions Lizzie takes too much laudanum (a popular drug of its time) and accidentally commits suicide. This does not stop Fanny and Jane to continue their quest to vie for Dante’s affection. Lizzie’s ghost continues to haunt their consciences from beyond the grave.
Archer put together each of the beautiful costumes worn by the three ladies. Each one suits the character’s status from Lizzie dressed in white reflecting her naive innocence, Fanny in a low-cut semi-revealing blue dress, to Jane’s rich purple satin dress with a full skirt finished off with a hat worn by a lady of a higher status. It’s this attention to detail that adds depth to Fringe performances.
The question asked in the programme “which muse did Rossetti love the most?” is left for the audience to decide for themselves and I am personally unsure as he appeared to use them all for his own needs as and when it suited him. Although watching this performance, in my opinion, it was Fanny who felt the deepest affection towards Dante.
Fringe theatre performances such as these in which a time in history is bought to life and I learn something new are an absolute pleasure to watch. I would highly recommend catching Rosetti’s Women at the Edinburgh Fringe this year in The Space@Surgeons Hall.