The Seven Acts of Mercy actors invited Caravaggio expert Dr Lorenzo Pericolo into the rehearsal room this week, so they could learn more about the artist who inspired our new play.

Dr Lorenzo Pericolo has written two books about Caravaggio, and is Associate Professor in History of Art at the University of Warwick. He joined rehearsals to answer questions about the notorious artist.

The Seven Acts of Mercy tracks the creation of Caravaggio’s masterpiece The Seven Works of Mercy, painted after the artist killed a man, and had to flee Rome for Naples.

The company, including the play’s Writer Anders Lustgarten, Director Erica Whyman and Patrick O’Kane, who is playing Caravaggio, learnt about Caravaggio’s approach to painting, his life and reputation, and particularly how he created The Seven Works of Mercy. The painting shows seven acts of mercy in traditional Catholic belief:

  • Bury the dead
  • Visit the imprisoned
  • Feed the hungry
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Clothe the naked
  • Visit the sick
  • Refresh the thirsty
The Seven Acts of Mercy cast sit in a circle in an RSC rehearsal room
The Seven Acts of Mercy cast in rehearasal
Ellie Kurttz © RSC – Image Licensing

Dr Pericolo encouraged linking up academic research and theatre, to help audiences understand how history of art is linked with our cultural identity. He said: "People who come from a different background such as theatre can understand and relate to what Caravaggio is doing, for instance how a script or scene can reflect visual techniques.”

He added: “To a certain extent it’s impossible to know the real Caravaggio as we have very little documentation apart from his works of art.”

The Seven Acts of Mercy opens in the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon on 24 November. There is a coach trip for students at the University of Warwick on 24 November.

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