Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Ursula: Fear of the Estuary 

Comic energy, senseless babble, and a gaggle of martyred virgins -- hoorah!

Wednesday, Mar 19 2003
The legend of St. Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins has survived in about 11,000 versions, none of them all that likely, but British playwright Howard Barker revisits the story in this oblique script reminiscent of a fairy tale. The traditional St. Ursula gets slaughtered with thousands of virgin martyrs after refusing to marry a king or some other powerful man. Here, she's a nun betrothed to a wild, Christ-like "Lord of the Estuary," who enjoys swimming naked across his cold waterway. Even after the wedding, Ursula remains a virgin, which enrages him. Since the other nuns in Ursula's order have been trapped with her (and the wild man) on the far side of the estuary, they try to persuade her that virginity is no big deal. Last Planet Theatre's production is full of comic energy, but is willfully bizarre: The senseless babble in any given scene fails to connect with the babble in the next. Director John Wilkins concentrates on the symbolic elements of the story at the expense of any drama. Tori Hinkle is impetuous and high-spirited yet never quite natural as Ursula, and the whole play has an arch, cartoonish feel. Barker is known for developing a "Theatre of Catastrophe," which involves not only a lot of shouting and constant crisis onstage, but also an overload of images and deliberate audience bewilderment. The only trouble is that bewilderment grows wearying after 2 1/2 hours.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"