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Scenes from an Execution is a play by the English playwright Howard Barker. The plot revolves around a female artist's struggles against the Venetian city-state in the aftermath of the 16th century Battle of Lepanto. Although the city commissions the painting to celebrate the victory over the Turks, the artist's vision differs dramatically from that of the Doge and the Catholic Church. The play has been described as "Barker's most famous and accessible play".[1]

Originally a radio play for the BBC in 1984 with Glenda Jackson in the role of the artist Galactia,[2] the stage version was first performed in 1990 at the Almeida Theatre in London with Glenda Jackson reprising her role. While a fringe production was staged in 2007 at the Hackney Empire, the play was later revived in 2012 by the National Theatre on its Lyttelton stage. Fiona Shaw and Tim McInnerny starred in this production. In his review of the National Theatre production, The Guardian critic Michael Billington wrote: "it shows Barker's poetic talent at its most disciplined and has the feel of a contemporary classic."[2] Barker himself has turned against the play. "It's a very easy play to like", he said in 1999,[3] and believed in 2012 that some of his other plays are superior works.[1]

The play opened Off-Broadway at the Potomac Theatre Project in July 2008, directed by Richard Romagnoli and starring Jan Maxwell as Galactia.[4] Maxwell was nominated for the Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Actress in a Play.[5]


  1. ^ a b Maddy Costa "Howard Barker: 'I don't care if you listen or not'", The Guardian, 1 October 2012
  2. ^ a b Michael Billington "Scenes from an Execution – review", The Guardian, 5 October 2013
  3. ^ Anne Karpf "What was that all about, then?", The Guardian, 19 June 1999
  4. ^ Hetrick, Adam. " 'Scenes From an Execution', Starring Maxwell, Adds Performances", July 14, 2008
  5. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Ruined and Billy Elliot Win Top Honors at Drama Desk Awards", May 17, 2009