As a long time admirer of the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti in particular, this production immediately caught my eye in theSpaceUK’s programme, and I was interested to see how three of the most important women in Rossetti’s life would be portrayed.
Fanny Cornforth (played by Julia Munrow), Lizzie Siddal (Emma Hopkins) and Jane Morris (Sarah Archer) were very different women from very different backgrounds, but they were all painted by Rossetti, and were also his lovers, with Lizzie eventually, after an extremely long engagement, becoming his wife.
This play depends entirely on the acting skills of the three women involved, with no props other than an easel with a painting or drawing on it (which the audience doesn’t get to see), so it required an ability to get completely into the characters, which was accomplished to great effect.
Lizzie’s disbelief and anguish at the thought that Rossetti might have a lover, when she was his adoring fiancée, was beautifully portrayed, as was Jane Morris as the hoity toity socialite who was secure in her marriage to William Morris, whilst still yearning for and having an affair with Rossetti.
For me, however, the show was entirely stolen by Fanny Cornforth, the feisty prostitute who Rossetti painted and slept with, who had some wonderfully funny put-down lines, and actor Julia Munrow seemed to be enjoying every moment of it.
This was the first performance of this show at this year’s Fringe and, if the applause at the end was anything to go by, the audience enjoyed it every bit as much as I did.
If you’re a Rossetti fan, don’t miss this show. Even if you’re not a Rossetti fan, go along and learn more about the intimate life of one of the greatest English artists of the 19th century.
Review by Lisa Sibbald (c) 2021
ARTS REVIEWS EDINBURGH