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Autumn 1999

Scenes From An Execution is set in the seventeenth century but centres around the timeless conflict between an artist's need to be true to herself and the demands of her patron. The painter Galactia's determination to depict the true brutality and horror of the battle of Lepanto clashes with the political requirements for the painting desired by the Venetian authorities who have commissioned it.

An instant success when it was first staged in 1986 at the Almeida Theatre, this contemporary classic builds powerful poetic language, seductive ideas and rich, dark humour into a profound and compelling exploration of the conflict between moral responsibility and personal ambition.

Written not long after the Tate Gallery took its infamous delivery of bricks, the arguments explored in Scenes From An Execution are still burning, most recently re-ignited by Damien Hirst and his glass cased pickled animals. Just what is the responsibility of an artist in society? Should they portray only their perception of truth or are they obliged to use their skills for the public good or bend their art to suit the political spin required of whoever is paying for the paint and canvas? Howard Barker presents a profound engagement with the moral responsibilities of an artist, characteristically using a moment from history to explore ideas and moral questions that still resound with contemporary resonance.

Galactia is one of the most demanding female roles in contemporary drama. In this production was layed by Olivier Award winning actress Kathryn Hunter, in a new production directed by Howard Barker.

"Barker directs... with seductive simplicity... a sharp cut above the rest..."      The Guardian, Judith

Presented in association with the Barbican BITE'99 season and supported by the Arts Council of England.