new version by Tony Harrison.

Globe Theatre 21 New Globe Walk Bankside SE1 9DT In rep to 1 October 2011.
2pm 20, 30Aug, 6, 13, 20, 29 Sept, 1 Oct.
7.30pm 19, 29 Aug, 5, 12, 18, 24, 28 Sept.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 August.

Vivid language in northern voices and inventive visual accompaniment.
What’s God playing at? He’s no sooner done creating than he wanders off, leaving Lucifer – Lucifer!– in charge. From the moment of smiling complicity with the audience on Paul Hunter’s face, through his game of Follow-My-Leader with the angels to ascending God’s throne to drink tea, it’s clear where the banality of Evil began.

Proudly showing-off the LUCIFER emblazoned across his chest, he’s the essence of self-assertion, though he can do casual when appearing to Eve, the coil of rope he puts round her suggesting his serpentine disguise.

Hunter’s physical jesting recurs throughout Deborah Bruce’s production of Tony Harrison’s much-abridged script, which mixes medieval, modernised, and blatantly modern (what else are ye none-too-olde Bush and Blair doing there?). Harrison’s right – these plays could throw in anything without later ages’ need for causation.

The production works best when there’s visual play in the unfolding action, like Adam and Eve emerging from a crate on God’s creation’s cart – one crate, at least, summing-up life with its ‘Fragile’ labelling.

There’s always lots left out in modern productions of these medieval plays. Here, the Old Testament’s rushed through leaving the image of William Ash’s Isaac (Abraham’s son saved from execution) re-emerging as Jesus (God’s son, sent to be executed), and the confusion of why God drowns humanity, Noah’s family excepted, and within minutes feels the need to rescue his second go at humanity through Jesus.

Even the most famous play, the Shepherds, with sheep-stealing Mak, is reduced to a brief interlude. For the focus is on the Crucifixion and the impact of Jesus’ Resurrection. High on a metallic cross, Ash’s body writhes in traumatic shock. A lot of workmanlike speech goes on around (the original playwright must have known the nailing-trade), yet it’s an injured thumb and its howling owner that draws attentrion, as Jesus suffers, ignored, above.

His mother Mary’s lament is quietly dignified by contrast, though even there the final impact’s visual. The different ethnicity and age of young and older Mary make their point when it’s Helen Weir who is assumed into heaven, but Ony Uhiara who meets her divine son there.

Isaac/Jesus: William Ash.
Cain/Abraham/King/Knight/Jacob: Joe Caffrey.
Gabriel/Judas/Ribalo: Philip Cumbus.
Adam/King/Soldier/Peter/Priest: Marcus Griffiths.
God: David Hargreaves.
Shepherd/Poor Man/Andrew/Knight/Thomas: Adrian Hood.
Lucifer/Shepherd/Herod/Blind Man/Knight: Paul Hunter.
Eve/Woman/Mother/Angel/Mary Salome: Lisa McGrillis.
Singer/Mother/Woman: Rhiannon Meades.
Abel/King/Soldier/Philip/Knight: David Nellist.
Joseph/Mak/Pilate/Beelzebub: Matthew Pidgeon.
Noah/Shepherd/John the Baptist/John/Malcus/Barabbas: John Stahl.
Mary/Gill/Woman/Mary Magdalene: Ony Uhiara.
Noah’s Wife/Woman/Mary: Helen Weir.
Supporting Players: Miles Mitchell, Jenny Stevenson, Sarah Vevers, Benjamin Way.

Director: Deborah Bruce.
Designer: Jonathan Fensom.
Composer: Olly Fox.
Musical Director: Philip Hopkins.
Choreographer: Siân Williams.
Movement: Glynn MacDonald.
Voice/Dialect: Mary Howland.
Fight director: Philip d’Orléans.
Illusionist: Richard Pinner.
Assistant director: Anna G Jones.

2011-08-17 12:33:29

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