by Simon Turley.
Mercury Theatre Balkerne Gate CO To 11 June 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 11 June 2.30pm.
Audio-described 11 June 7.30pm.
Captioned 7 June.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01206 573948.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 June.
Wrong to assume more means better in production.
This nearly-new play was first produced by Dee Evans in the mid-1990s. Now boss of Colchester Mercury, Evans has programmed a new, non-touring, larger-stage version of Simon Turley’s fantasy about an angel in temporary male form one night kissing an Irish girl and rendering her pregnant.
The new staging possibilities, well-exploited by fine designer Sara Perks, create a set of beautiful moments, especially as the action gets underway. The angel in male guise appears and disappears as shutter-like panels open or shut vertically and horizontally at once, creating the sense of a vision – better than the sudden full-scale image of Amanda Haberland’s angel suspended in heavenly guise.
The colours of Richard Godin’s lighting, and Adam McCready’s music join to create sumptuous moments for Assumption. But the play resists all this. A small, simple, physically-inventive style would suit it fine. The Colchester gorgeousness raises expectations the script was never made to fulfil.
Turley’s play is deliberately earthbound in approach, depending upon swiftness, and instant creation of scenes from little. So, the mirror-frame in which pregnant young Gabriella is reflected by the Angel is fine as it contributes to such physical creation, but the technical panoply all around sacrifices the play for moments of beauty. Reliable Mercury actors work conscientiously, though there’s little point in their sitting around the stage when not in the action
In all this, lightness and humour are lost. The second act’s Magdalene setting, in one of the Catholic workhouses where single mothers, instead of council-flat priority, were given hard labour and humiliation, suffers particularly. For all the talk of its famously fearsome laundry Gabriella is never seen scrubbing clothes, while the tedium of threading rosary beads is hardly begun before being diverted with visitations human and angelic.
But religion has no place here – the Assumption of Mary (the belief she was taken to heaven without dying) is not regarded; what matter are the assumptions people around Gabriella make abut her. They’re ones which, judgmentally or not, any one would make. Unless they knew there was magic in the air. Which, in a dramatic sense, there isn’t here.
Mother: Christine Absalom.
Reverend Mother/Shamie: Gilian Cally.
Angel: Amanda Haberland.
Anna/Assumpta: Nadia Morgan.
Gabriella: Emily Woodward.
Child: Romilly Blacker/Elanor Plant/Grace Robards.
Director: Dee Evans.
Designer: Sara Perks.
Lighting: Richard Godin.
Sound/Composer: Adam McCready.
Movement: Sue Lefton.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.