In Renaissance Italy, women might have intelligence and a degree of power, but their lives are limited by the number of pregnancies they have to undergo.
Michelene Wandor's play springs from a visit to Mantua, her love of Renaissance music and her fascination with the powerful women of history. Her Lucrezia Borgia shows us a vulnerable woman, but also of course, a ruthless one and Isabella d'Este is revealed as a woman of taste and sensitivity, but one who can be equally ruthless.
The portraits of the two powerful Renaissance women in northern Italy make us aware of the limitations of their lives and the terrible lessons learned from their husbands, lovers, brothers and in the case of Lucrezia, a terrifying father - Roderigo Borgia, who became Pope Alexander VI. And when you throw in a devil you have a play that is truly entertaining and captivating.
Courtly Love provides wonderful opportunities for the actors, some of whom were making their debuts on radio. Nathalie Buscombe, who plays Lucrezia is still at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and she was supported by a number of ex- students of the GSMD: Nicholas Boulton, Tai Lawrence, who had left some years earlier and Jane Whittenshaw who along with Clare Corbett is a former member of the BBC Radio Rep. Grainne Keenan, who plays Isabella, and Edward Evans graduated quite recently from RADA, but age and experience were supplied by such splendid actors as Ronald Pickup, Philip Voss, Struan Rodger and John McAndrew.
Courtly Love is a Unique production for BBC Radio 3.