The White Rabbit Theatre’s retelling of the life of a Hungarian Countess known for her extraordinary violence
Second Skin Theatre brings Blood Privilege, a play about ‘The Bloody Countess’ Elizabeth Bathory to the White Rabbit Theatre, writes Melissa Tricoire.
The historical figure of Elizabeth Bathory, a 16th century Hungarian Countess, is widely remembered for her extraordinary violence. Legend has it she ruthlessly tortured, abused and murdered 600 young women and bathed in their blood in an attempt to stay young forever.
With Blood Privilege artistic director Andy McQuade and playwright Don Fried aim to show the truth behind the myth and explore the fate that awaits those seeking absolute power.
McQuade has extensively researched the life of Elizabeth Bathory. “Since I saw Countess Dracula as a child, I have been fascinated with Elizabeth Bathory and the more I researched her life, the more I started questioning the modern orthodoxy about her” he says.
“Elizabeth Bathory was ahead of her time – she was a wealthy, intelligent, loving mother and an incredible administrator who, to the dismay of King Matthias II, marshalled a strategic part of Hungary. All this at a time when women were routinely tortured and burnt for fear of witchcraft.”
Blood Privilege is a visceral play exploring the discrepancy between the myth of ‘The Bloody Countess’ and the historical facts that show a woman whose power was incredibly threatening to the patriarchal society of that time.
National Croatian Theatre actress Mia Zara, known for her role in Second Skin’s Poe Macabre Resurrections (2011), plays Elizabeth Bathory. According to McQuade, the part was written with her in mind.
“Mia Zara perfectly captures the essence of Elizabeth Bathory,” he explains. “She portrays her as a stunningly supernatural figure that is yet accessible and human.”
Blood Privilege will please horror film aficionados and historical drama lovers alike. Set in the dungeon-like basement of the White Rabbit, it features Hungarian medieval costumes and melodramatic lighting that come together to create a Gothic and tragic atmosphere.
The sensationalism of the play is also apparent in the crisp musicality of Don Fried’s text. Inspired by Old English, the playwright created a poetic language that is medieval whilst incredibly modern and rhythmic.
Blood Privilege is a play about abuse of power and the way society perceives female beauty. McQuade remarks: “In medieval Europe, women’s worth was based on their looks and powerful women were systematically dehumanised. Nowadays men pay a lip service to women’s rights but essentially nothing much has changed.”
Until 14 April
White Rabbit Theatre
125 Stoke Newington Church Street
This article was published in Hackney Citizen on 08 April 2013.