Christopher Hunter stars in Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, written during the Plague epidemic of 1593 when London’s theatres were forced to close.
In 1592 Shakespeare’s career as a dramatist had barely got off ground when a severe outbreak of the plague forced London’s theatres to close. He turned his hand to poetry and the result was Venus and Adonis, an epic poem that became his first published work and the best seller of its day!
Its commercial success was due in no small part to its more erotic passages which describe how, over a period of 24 hours, the sexually experienced Venus tries to seduce a young, virginal boy.
Is Venus and Adonis a soft-focus centrefold in the playbook of Elizabethan erotica? Or is it a portrait of sexual power, love, lust and its catastrophic consequences?
As we emerge from another period where London’s theatres were all shut for an extended period due to a global medical emergency, Christopher Hunter’s brilliant one-man dramatisation takes us on a journey through Shakespeare’s vibrant language and into the poem’s pulsating dark heart.
Christopher Hunter said: “I read the poem and fell in love with its incredibly vivid language and pounding narrative. It is seldom performed, but the performer in me found Venus and Adonis
extremely exciting – it was clearly the work of a dramatist and it had theatre at its core – so I set out to explore the possibility of turning the poem into a one-man play.
“As I worked on the piece, researching it and exploring its themes, a darker and more sinister narrative started emerging from the soft-focus of Elizabethan erotica – and this narrative told the story of a young boy who, walking out of his front door one morning, is sexually assaulted and never returns home. This is the story that I want to tell. The more I understood the dark heart of the poem, the more I altered my approach. The deeper I worked, the more shocking the narrative became.
“Venus and Adonis will entertain, shock, thrill, provoke, challenge and surprise you. Just as working on the poem did me.”
Venus and Adonis is at Riverside Studios Tuesday 9 May – Sunday 21 May