When you’re in a gallery, contemplating, let’s say, classical Roman art, do really look at the art? Not just at its subject, at the Gods peering from the clouds, the bosoms of mortal women arranged with white sheets or suggestive fruits but at the postures, the poses? The turn of a head or the tensing of muscles in any one figure could offer an entirely different perspective on a seemingly well worn story. Consider the bathing, unclothed figure of Susanna from Susanna and The Elders (1610) about to be set upon in Gentileschi’s master work, was she asking for it?

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“It’s True, It’s True, It’s True” is a re-staging of the 1612 trial of painter to the pope, Agostino Tassi, for the rape of his young, gifted pupil, Artemisia Gentileschi. She was fifteen at the time. Based on surviving latin court documents, new and Edinburgh festival award winning company, Breach Theatre, have brought a contemporary-English adaptation to the stage. Looking to the past can help us to understand the present, but as we hear Tassi play every trick in the book to try and get off, as we watch the judge himself literally torture Gentileschi to try and break her resolve, the connection here is anger-inducingly close. All she can do is repeat over and over, “It’s true, it’s true, it’s true, it’s true, it’s true… Because it is”.

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As Gentileschi’s works are recreated for the court in tableau before us (so do not fret if you have not seen the originals!) we discover how her revenge for her wrong was made in her art. Beheadings, rapes and scenes of female retribution became her speciality. Breach imaginatively dramatise outside of the paintings too, depicting the before and afters of each violent scenario. Susanna’s rapists leer at her from artists’ decorators ladders, blood pours out of Holofernes’s severed head as a long red scarf. It’s an intoxicating way to experience her masterpieces that no projection could ever encompass.

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The performances from the three women are all taut and meticulously controlled.  Gentileschi, played by Ellice Stevens, maintains an eloquent dignity whilst Kathryn Bond and Harriet Webb weave a web around her as the the judge, the accused and a long string of witnesses.

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It is some superb editing from the Breach team that has seen seven months of trial wound taught into an intense and fiercely intelligent piece of drama, that feels a great deal more expansive than its hour. Scenes are struck through with contemporary music that keeps up the relentless pace. Watching Gentileschi let loose is one of many fist in the air moments.

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Breach have accomplished something astonishing, fusing the past and present in this ancient court room. Pay more attention to the past, but don’t despair – draw from it, they beg us. Get angry. Insist on being heard.

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