You have to be tough to be kind. That's what I've learned from you,
Granddad. Tough and fearless and strong. So that's what I'm going to be.
Naples, 1606. Inside an unfinished church, a painting is emerging from
the darkness. The Seven Acts of Mercy is Caravaggio's masterpiece - and
his first painting since he killed a man and fled Rome. As the artist
works, he is fueled by anger, self-loathing and his driving need to
create a work that speaks of compassion in a violent world. Bootle, the
present day. A retired dock worker teaches his grandson, as around them a
community is disintegrating under the pressure of years of economic and
political degradation. With all he has left, a book of great works of
art, he tries to open the boy's eyes to the tragedy and beauty of the
life he faces. And the boy reciprocates in the only way he knows.
Playing out across a gap of 400 years, Anders Lustgarten's visceral play
confronts the dangerous necessity of compassion, in a world where it is
in short supply. The Seven Acts of Mercy received its world premiere at
the Swan Theatre, RSC, on 24 November 2016.