by David Eldridge.
Shakespeare’s Globe 21 New Globe Walk SE1 9DT In rep to 24 August 2014.
1pm 3, 17, 24 Aug,
6.30pm 10 Aug.
7.30pm 2, 16, 23 Aug..
Audio-described 26 July 7.30pm.
BSL Signed 16 Aug.
Captioned 31 July.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 July.
A thousand years of conflict as the two hours’ traffic of the stage.
In the Globe’s programme for David Eldridge’s new play there’s a discussion between the playwright and director James Dacre, who mentions the writer’s practice of thorough research. In Holy Warriors that’s both blessing and curse – terms which seem appropriate for the drama’s subject.
Which starts as the Third Crusade, of the late 12th-century. While Christian and Muslim forces clash, a cross descends or recedes, tracking the action’s shifts between the two camps. Everything’s played-out on the elaborate Islamic patterns of Mike Britton’s set; the ideologies may be opposed but the two sides walk the same territory.
It’s also clear women are part of the territory, with marriages made in earthly courts between the various European rulers. These kings can be as hostile to ach other as they are to Saladin and his army. Saladin was famously a cultured and – given his role – humane leader, something which Eldridge makes clear, as he does the irritability of England’s Richard the Lionheart; Alexander Siddig and John Hopkins aptly show their respective dignified and volatile manners.
Few others are memorable, unless as familiar historical figures; what Eldridge’s acquired knowledge gains in historical detail it cannot sustain in dramatic interest across the board. Women and men become interesting for a scene then fade into the general pattern.
Which isn’t harmful until the second part, where European interference in the Middle East is charted through Napoleon and modern leaders. Bonaparte stands in recognisable costume but his historical role isn’t explained. Tony Blair receives a laugh of recognition for the actor’s stance and voice rather than a response to what he says.
This isn’t a picture of the West in the Middle East, more of a diagram. Diagrams are helpful and informative but they lack focus and overall vision. This is provided to some extent by Dacre’s skilful use of the Globe stage, and Elena Langer’s score, which moves between sound worlds including calm medieval plainchant and rhythmic patterns of modern discord.
Eldridge calls his play a Fantasia – a useful term in music but pointing here to a lack of focus, while still leaving a marked impression.
Eleanor of Aquitaine: Geraldine Alexander.
Reynold of Chatillon/Carter/Crusader/Priest/Soldier: Ignatius Anthony.
Conrad of Montferrat/Soldier/Crusader/Cleric/Holy Warrior/Sapper: Peter Bankolé.
Az-Zahir/Faisal/Boy/Cleric/Cellist: Satya Bhabha.
Al-Afdal/Sadat/Cleric: Jonathan Bonnici.
Hugh of Burgundy/Blair/Cleric/Templar Knight: Philip Correia.
King Philip of France/Lawrence/Cleric/Templar Knight/Templar Knight: Jolyon Coy.
Imad al-Din/Abdulla/Cleric: Kammy Darweish.
Raymond of Tripoli/Bush/Crusader/Priest/Archbishop/Soldier: Paul Hamilton.
King Richard the Lionheart: John Hopkins.
Joanne/Cleric: Rosie Hilal.
Gerard of Ridefort/Sapper/Soldier/Crusader/Archbishop of Tyre/Cleric/Napoleon: Sean Jackson.
Bahan/Ben Gurion/Holy Man/Crusader/Soldier/Sapper/Pope: Sean Murray.
King Guy of Jerusalem/Soldier/Pope/Cleric/Weizmann: Daniel Rabin.
Queen Sibylla/Berengaria of Navarre/Golda Meir: Sirine Saba.
Saladin/Begin: Alexander Siddig.
Cantor/Troubadour: Merit Ariane Stephanos.
Templar Knight/English Soldier/Troubadour/Crusader/Cleric/Holy Man/Soldier: Obioma Ugoala.
Soldiers/Clerics/Saladin’s Retinue/Richard’s Retinue: Anndy Ajiz, Nadir Dernaika.
Director: James Dacre.
Designer: Mike Britton.
Composer: Elena Langer.
Musical Director: Stephen Bentley-Klein.
Choreographer: Georgina Lamb.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan.
Fight director: Terry King.
Dramaturg: Sarah Dickenson.
Globe associate, Movement: Glynn MacDonald.
Assistant director: Eduard Lewis.