by Jesse Briton.

Southwark Playhouse (The Large) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 5 July 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 June.

As much a struggle as the action it depicts, but increasingly rewarding..
After an hour, reaching the interval with around half as much again to come, Jesse Briton’s play seemed more ‘Endurance Song’. His play, Bound, at Southwark Playhouse’s previous location had been excellent. But less than half the length of his piece, which also enters the dangerous territory of the medieval period and the Crusades.

Briton admits the title preceded most of the material. And the songs, originally a major factor, are now, while still striking, a far smaller element. And there are significant problems. The minimal setting allows gains in pace, and space for the large cast,, but it doesn’t help with basic information about time and place – not always clear in performance.

What the piece needed was a strong, separate director to bring fresh awareness; Briton assumes we know about as much as he does regarding his intentions. And the youthful cast, while willing and energetic, are variable in their impact. Some moments hit home truthfully and centuries of separation vanish. Others are effortfully unconvincing.

At a basic level, too few of the acting company have the experience to make what they are saying clear in-the-round when their backs are turned. Realistic drops in voice level do not work in this situation.

Yet, as the piece progresses, it stamps its individual voice. The contrast between the largely female farm group back home and the young men who begin ogling them then go to Antioch and Jerusalem, create contrasting worlds which go beyond a simplistic sexual difference of peace and war.

Individual temperaments emerge, and the attack on Jerusalem – contemporary in its conflict between Christianity and Islam – is mirrored in the church’s claims on the farm. The preacher who disappears when fighting begins is a recurrent figure in history, and the malleability of friendship, love and loyalty under strain becomes intriguing.

Enduring Song needs to be seen by those in charge of large stages and budgets to employ large casts, including plenty of experienced players. Redirected, and with adjustments, it could make an adventurous evening in the likes of the Olivier or, compactly, the South Bank’s replacement for the Cottesloe.

Matthew: Tom Roe.
Georges: Daniel Foxsmith.
Gaston: Jac Husebo.
Hugh: Max Macintosh.
Marie: Emma Ballantine.
Jennifer: Eloise Secker.
Anne: Kate Maravan.
Bella: Jane Thorne.
Robert: Rafe Beckley.
Peter: Alex Harland.
Godfrey: Edward Grace.
Baldwin: Alan Devally.
Eustace/Simon: Andy McLeod.
Ibn: Moncef Monsur.
Sibylle: Sibylle Bernardin.
Knight/Boy: Tom Gray.
Maid: Martha Shrimpton.
Girl/Ensemble: Leona Allen.
Ensemble: Ellie Routledge.

Director: Jesse Briton.
Designer: Buddug James Jones.
Lighting: Seth Rook Williams.
Composer: Greg Hall.
Costume: Clare Amos.
Fight director: Keith Wallis.
Assistant director: Lois Leary.
Associate costume: Victoria Smart.

2014-06-17 11:41:03

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