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A rapist and his victim, who are meant for each other: the controversial Catalan theatre maker Angélica Liddell proposes a decidedly different interpretation to the classic story of Lucretia than we’ve known. To Ovid and Titus Livy, her rape by crown prince Tarquinius marked the birth of the republic; to Shakespeare, her suicide was an act of fidelity. However, in Liddell’s universe spiritual passions and carnal desires find their way unrestrained by laws or morals. In her story, Lucretia commits suicide to be able to continue her love relationship with Tarquinius when they end up in hell. Her rebellion exposes the mediocrity of political ambitions and the stifling demand on women to be virtuous.
What is the weak spot of a rapist? Can a woman long for the man who assaulted her? How are we restrained by our laws and morals from acting out our deepest desires? Exploring the age old story of the rape of Lucretia, the Catalan writer, director and performance artist Angélica Liddell ventures into the inexplicable and hazardous realm of our passions, with You are my destiny (Lo stupro di Lucrezia).
Liddell bases her performance on the classical story of Lucretia, as recorded by Livy and Ovid. After Lucretia, the wife of the Etruscan general Collatinus, has been raped by Tarquinius, the king's son, she commits suicide to save her honour. Her action provokes her family to start a revolt that overthrows the monarchy and leads to the establishment of the Roman Republic.
Through the ages, many artists have been inspired by this myth, ranging from Shakespeare to the painters Titian and Rembrandt as well as the composers Handel and Britten. Now, the controversial Angélica Liddell follows in their footsteps. However, she does not focus on the political struggle (the toppling of the despotic royal family), as the Romans did, nor does she deal with Lucretia's suicide as an act of matrimonial fidelity, as in Shakespeare's sonnet The Rape of Lucrece.
Nor is she interested in the position of the woman as the underlying party, victim of the uncontrolled lusts of man, as many modern interpretations do. Liddell intentionally chooses to interpret the story from the perspective of the irrepressible desire of Tarquinius to rape Lucretia, another man's wife, whilst Lucretia, stuck in her marriage and restrained by society's demands of how to behave, suffers from an incapacity to enjoy her sexual appetite as well. In Liddell's version, the sacrifice she brings, her suicide, does not replace love, but rather is the expression of it. She does not look for meaning in terms of a moral or social order, but approaches the story from the perspective of the human passions underlying these sexual excesses. According to her, the convulsions of the soul have nothing to do with what's just or unjust; weakness is what defines human nature and our carnal desires and need for love will find their way irrespective of any laws or morals.
In You are my destiny, the rapist Tarquinius and suicide Lucretia meet each other again in hell and enter into a love relationship. It's their rebellion against the vacuous and superficial demands of virtue and political correctness which control life on earth and which made it impossible for them to pursue their desires.
The play is performed by twelve young men (7 Italian actors, 4 Spanish actors and one from The Netherlands), a Ukranian singing trio, Liddell's close collaborator the actress Lola Jiménez and Liddell herself, as well as 10 children. Having met the Italian and Spanish actors at a Shakespeare workshop which Liddell gave at the Venice Biennial in 2013, she wanted to take them into her company straight away. During that same stay in Venice, she encountered the Ukranian trio, singing at the foot of Rialto Bridge. In the performance, their ritual Ukranian songs, which are normally performed at weddings or funerals, reinforce the torments which Tarquinius and Lucretia must endure. In the performance we also hear Handel’s Cantata la Lucrezia, countered by Paul Anka’s You are my destiny. Venice, where the seed for the performance was sown, plays an important role in the production, represented, amongst others, by a golden stage version of the Doge's Palace. Ecclesiastical miniatures from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries symbolise the human search for the holy.
As with all Liddell's works, You are my destiny explodes with excitement, expressing her immense commitment. Written in a brutally poetic language, her pieces identify what's wrong with our society, which requires us to cover up our illicit passions and politically incorrect animosities. In Liddell's world we experience quite the opposite: her stage is a place for artists to freely release their demons and discuss everything in the open, more so than anywhere else.