Scenes from an Execution

by Howard Barker

A victory is about to be immortalised. One woman's battle is just beginning.

Fiona Shaw plays artist Galactia in Howard Barker's funny and provocative play.

Fiona Shaw (Galactia), Robert Hands (Suffici). Photo by Mark Douet.

Scenes from an Execution

Commissioned to paint a vast canvas celebrating the triumphant Battle of Lepanto, the free-spirited Galactia creates instead a breathtaking scene of war-torn carnage. In her fierce determination to stay true to herself, she alienates the authorities and faces incarceration. Her younger lover Carpeta is approached to take over and seizes the assignment for himself.

But listen, this is a State commission, an investment, an investment by us, the Republic of Venice, in you, Galactia. Empire and artist. Greatness beckons, and greatness imposes disciplines.

Howard Barker’s Scenes from an Execution makes sixteenth-century Venice the setting for a fearless exploration of sexual politics and the timeless tension between personal ambition and moral responsibility, between the patron’s demands and the artist’s autonomy.

Art is opinion, and opinion is the source of all authority.

This production ran from 27 September to 9 December 2012

photo (Fiona Shaw and Robert Hands) by Mark Douet

original poster photo (Fiona Shaw) by Jason Bell

Related content: 
  • War Horse
  • War Horse on Tour - close up of horse's eye, with sketch of horse and rider just below
  • King Lear with Simon Russell-Beale
  • A Taste of Honey with Lesley Sharp and Kate O'Flynn on a terraced street
  • Home by Nadia Fall
  • A Small Family Business. With Nigel Lindsay in a warehouse
  • The Silver Tassie, with a photo of Ronan Raftery in British army uniform
  • Yellow Face
  • One Man Two Guvnors poster with Owain Arthur
  • The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, by 1927
  • The Roof - title treatment on concrete chasm looking up with free-runner leaping across the void
  • Hotel. A figure swimming, top half of body, viewed from below, with title.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • 100 Acts of Minor Dissent. Photo of Mark Thomas
  • James I - photo of James McArdle against a stormy sky
  • Ballyturk
  • James II - photo of Andrew Rothney against a stormy sky
  • James III - photo of Jamie Sives against a stormy sky
  • The James Plays
  • Treasure Island. graphic outline of a sailing galleon on a calm sea at night with stars