Botticelli in the Fire

By Jordan Tannahill

“They’re going to kill you. They’re going to worship you, don’t get me wrong. But they are going to kill you.”

While painting The Birth of Venus, famed artist and bon-vivant Sandro Botticelli becomes entangled in sexual and political brinkmanship that puts a lot more than his masterpiece at stake. Caught in a web between the powerful Medici family, the Church, and his young lover, he must choose between art and survival.

"Tannahill’s play is full of amusing anachronisms and exists in the past and the present at once....ambitious and entertaining"

The Globe and MailJ. Kelly Nestruck

"The best new Canadian play of the year."

National PostRobert Cushman

"Jordan Tannahill’s audacious pair of one-act plays brings Canadian Stage's season to a blazing conclusion...Tannahill’s work is witty, sexy, and audacious, with a strong emotional core."

TorontoistMartin Morrow

★★★ 1/2 (out of 4)
"Jordan Tannahill’s bracingly fresh double bill takes fragments of stories from the historical record and turns them into plays for today, damning more than a few torpedoes as he goes...Tannahill, as Canadian Stage writer in residence, rose with style to the challenge of writing two plays for two graduate directors and a single acting company, and design, performance and technical achievement here is first rate. The company’s season ends on a high note."

Toronto StarKaren Fricker

"Botticelli in the Fire is an erotic look at art, love and hedonism. Tannahill beautifully illuminates the terror of power and how it’s most devastating when it’s quietly threatening."

Lynn Slotkin

"a portrait of the artist caught up in personal, political and religious turmoil. The deliberate anachronism of the play – using cellphones and texting, having Botticelli and Lorenzo playing squash, having Savonarola appear on a television talk show – are at once a source of humour but also highlight how artistic expression is still affected by politics and religion"

Stage DoorChristopher Hoile

"Tannahill’s uproarious and chilling ahistorical fantasy...that’s kinda-sorta set in the 1480s but is clearly about our unfathomable present."

Washington City PaperChris Klimek

"For a thought-provoking and entirely unique theatergoing experience look no further than Jordan Tannahill's 'Botticelli in the Fire'... It pushes artistic boundaries while still being entirely relevant to today's audiences hungry for astute socio-political commentary within their entertainment choices... this is an unpredictable 'only at Woolly' experience you won't want to miss."

Broadway World - Washington, DCJennifer Perry

"Botticelli in the Fire is bold and ostentatious, tender and beautiful, funny and cutting. It’s a contemporary re-imagining that feels timeless and enduringly relevant to the modern moment."

DC Theatre SceneJohn Bavoso

"Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli’s 'The Birth of Venus' is a painting famous for its youthful beauty and artistic mastery. When I stood in front of it in Florence, I struggled to look away – which is exactly how I felt about 'Botticelli in the Fire', Woolly Mammoth’s new show about a queer and vivacious painter struggling to make art in a world that’s increasingly hostile...It’s hard to imagine a better show than 'Botticelli in the Fire' to see"

DC MetroElizabeth Ballou

"a boldly modern and sexy reimagining of historical gay characters in Renaissance Florence... In the queering (or reexamining history from a queer lens) of the past, Tannahill takes liberties in creating a compelling gay love story rife with anachronisms — timely and amusing — in dialogue and sublime design. We’re reminded how the rights of artists and LGBT people are, again and again, called into question."

Washington BladePatrick Folliard

"Woolly Mammoth kicks off Pride month enthusiastically with its splendid new production of 'Botticelli in the Fire,' a celebratory mix of the sacred and profane that is sure to please."

MD Theatre GuideNorah Dick

"This Botticelli burns with passion"

Daily Mail

"Exhilarating… an audacious Renaissance romp"

The Guardian (UK)

"The stuff of a TV thriller… An absorbing, archly anachronistic play by Canadian wunderkind Jordan Tannahill"

The Telegraph (UK)

"Exuberant fun… Brilliant Botticelli is never boring"

Evening Standard

"Well crafted and finely tuned"


"Delivers on all levels... Engaging, touching, immediate and - naturally - beautiful"

Broadway World (UK)

Production Details

4 Male

2 Female

Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes (with one intermission)

By Jordan Tannahill

Purchase Play Script

Production History

Double bill Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom premiered at the Berkeley Downstairs Theatre, Canadian Stage, in April, 2016.
Botticelli in the Fire had its American premiere at Woolly Mammoth Theatre (Washington, DC) in May 2018.
Botticelli in the Fire had its UK/European premiere at Hampstead Theatre and ran October 18 – November 23, 2019.
Winner of the 2016 Dora Mavor Moore award for Outstanding Production (General Theatre Division)
Nominated for 7 Dora Mavor Moore awards including Outstanding New Play (Jordan Tannahill), Outstanding Direction (Matjash Mrozewski & Estelle Shook), Outstanding Performance – Female (Valerie Buhagiar), Outstanding Costume Design (James Lavoie), Outstanding Lighting Design (Steve Lucas) and Outstanding Sound Design / Composition (Sam Sholdice).
Winner of the Toronto Theatre Critics Award for ‘Best Canadian Play’ in 2016
Winner, Governor General’s Literary Award 2018

Hampstead Theatre Trailer for ‘Botticelli in the Fire’, 2019

Woolly Mammoth Trailer for ‘Botticelli in the Fire’, 2018

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