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A chair with white cloth over it

Actress Elena Pellone performed Shakespeare’s harrowing poem ‘The Rape of Lucrece’ at The Actors’ Church, St. Paul’s Church, in Covent Garden on Sunday 22nd October 2023. Accompanied by music from Katherine Abbott, the poem narrates the real, historical rape of Roman Lucretia by the King’s son, Sextus Tarquinius, around 509 BCE.

Shakespeare uses the poem to link non-consensual sex (rape) with violent abuses of power, capturing the impact of rape on victims, those close to them, and for society. Although written 429 years ago about a 2,500-year-old rape, the play creates a haunting response to a narrative that is, terrifyingly, still relevant.

Elena Pellone sat on a chair with her white dress draped over her as she began her performance of Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece.
Lucrece (Elena Pellone) sits in a chair, asleep in front of the audience.

Elena Pellone shared: “This play is an indictment of rape culture, the relentless perpetuation of female objectification, misogyny, and shame. It gives space to survivors’ stories.”

“Lucrece feels enforced shame and that her only choice is to kill herself. This piece alerts us to the urgency of changing this narrative. For a right to feel safe in our beds. For a right to feel safe everywhere.”

“Best piece of theatre I’ve ever seen.”

Audience member

Prior to the performance starting, our CEO Neil Henderson thanked St. Paul’s Church for hosting the event in their beautiful church. He then proceeded to express the prevalence of sexual violence in the modern day:

“It’s disheartening to say that 429 years later nothing has changed, people in positions of authority continue to use their power to sexually abuse women/men/children.”

“We have thousands of modern-day Tarquin’s (the main antagonist), Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, Russel Brand, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffery Epstein, Cardinale, Gabriele Martinelli, to name but a few. All have been accused as having used their power to sexually abuse people.”

“However, the abuse of power isn’t limited to the so-called Masters of the Universe: Abuse of power happens every day in every walk of life, politics, religion, policing, schools/universities, businesses, the arts, sport, social care, at HOME!”

He further emphasised the physical and psychological impact of sexual violence on victims. Highlighting how survivors of sexual violence are three times more likely to commit suicide. (Lucrece choose this route).

Currently 80% of clients referring to Safeline’s counselling services present with suicidal thoughts or have attempted suicide, (35% have attempted suicide on multiple occasions). The difference between 2023 and Lucrece’s circumstances in 1594 is that there are specialist support agencies like Safeline that can provide support to people that have experienced sexual violence/rape, to help them cope/recover.

Although Shakespeare shone a light on the issue of sexual violence, it did not lead to social change. However, through raising awareness we can reach those who need us. People like Elena help us to do that.

All proceeds from the performance were donated to Safeline.

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