Lucy Black – Subtlenuance
How to cope when you're a modern-minded lass whose Medieval family has died of the plague.
Lucy Black by Paul Gilchrist is an idiosyncratic piece set in an unspecified Medieval time with the ambitious topic of burgeoning Renaissance knowledge. We follow two sisters' opposing responses to the plague that's killed their family, including their father, the local doctor. Lucy Black (Corinne Marie) reacts by helping people despite her lack of medical training, while her sister (Zara Zoe) responds by having lots of sex and being poetic.
Chloe Lawrence-Hartcher's set is functional as well as evocative of a medieval apothecary come doctor’s surgery. The various jars holding potions and herbs are fetching indeed. Considering the Tap Gallery is a tiny space, Lawrence-Hartcher has done well to make it work.
The world of the play is one where the medical orthodoxy was the reverse of today's: herbs and tinctures were legitimate, and dissections like the one Lucy Black is planning were seen as unnatural. It's interesting to see the argument on stage in reverse order to that which is playing out today between western medicine and 'alternative therapies'.
Lucy's search for precise knowledge comes from her personal grief rather than some dry rationality. Renaissance epistemology was not about straight logic, but came in large part from some pretty kooky neoplatonic hermeticism as the late Frances Yates figured out through her impressive historical scholarship. Late medieval history is not a very sexy topic, and these people are certainly not trying to be cool.
This is a new work and the edges of the piece are still a bit rough, but it's great to see such a foreign world on stage. Domestic Aussie drama this ain't.