Something you should see…The Four Stages of Cruelty, Arcola Theatre

It’s not very often that a young theatre production company keep their take on a 250 year old engraving series firmly set in the past- the world loves to ‘bring things up to date’ – but that’s what Simple8 opted for in this new production at the wonderful Arcola Theatre. And I have to say it was a really good decision.

You may not be familiar with Hogarth’s engraving series, his most explicit work, showing the life journey of one man Tom Nero and his descent from animal cruelty to eventual murder of another human, but that won’t matter. The story they have adapted is accessible, reverentially humoured and surprisingly relevant for the modern day. They have applied the right amount of lude, crude foulness that is so truly Hogarth and have made great use of original stage direction and propping (the violin case for the horses nose is a particular favourite).

When Hogarth originally made the series it was for the masses; it was cheap, easily understandable. He wanted it to serve as a mirror held up to the grotesqueness he saw in London society of that time. And as you leave the darkness of the theatre you would be forgiven for noticing its immediate relevance to the city streets of ours. A relevant piece of theatre. (Words: Laura Thornley)

On until June 24th.

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