THE SEVEN ACTS OF MERCY, 5Star*****, RSC Stratford Upon Avon, To 10 02

Stratford Upon Avon
THE SEVEN ACTS OF MERCY: Anders Lustgarten

RSC, The Swan, to 10 February 2017
Runs: 2h 45m, one interval
Tkts: 0844 800 1110


Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 18 December 2016

Intense debate, exhilarating, powerful.
In 1607 Caravaggio was painting his revolutionary SEVEN ACTS OF MERCY (which include, among others, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked); in 2016, in Britain, the (we are told) third richest economy in the world, the hungry go to food banks for charity food, people freeze sleeping out on the streets, and a youngster (Mickey) struggles to record seven acts of mercy to show there is good in our world. Around these two themes, Anders Lustgarten has woven a deeply political play, rich in ideas, and one that struggles to find the humanity and hope in 21st Century Britain.

Caravaggio, we learn, used real people off the street as his models, shocking his contemporary Establishment. He did not attempt to ‘teach’ with visual gestures, but rather, through the essence of his portrayals themselves. SEVEN ACTS, the play. parallels this, young Mickey, his grandfather, the other characters, are all poor people scraping out an existence against the odds, and far lower in the pecking order than T May’s ‘just managing’.

Neither in his play, does Lustgarten tug at our heartstrings, SEVEN ACTS is written as an epic, moment by moment we are encouraged to contemplate the episodes and come to political decisions. Lustgarten has created a play bursting with debate, with great confidence and accomplishment.

The whole ensemble understand the debates within the play and its power never falters. Erica Whytman directs, managing resources with intelligence and sensitivity so that we are distanced from the play, but not alienated by the worlds.

Fine, strong performances all round. Patrick O’Kane is a superb Caravaggio – handsome, passionate but terribly tortured. As Mickey, TJ Jones grabs us and won’t let us go, he forces us to share with him his anger and his hope. Tom Georgeson as Mickey’s grandfather, Leon, commands our attention, whether passionately political or quietly dying.

Lustgarten portrays in his play a bleak view of humanity; what comes across is, it would seem, that no act of kindness goes unpunished. Such is the society we have created historically and today. Yet the play in performance is not without hope; fortunately we experience plays with our hearts as well as our heads. Mickey’s father may put him down with scoffing that you can’t save the world with small acts of kindness however well meant. But Mickey’s passion to carry through his seven acts proves him wrong; in our hearts we know that all we can do is individual acts. We know too, that if we give up on that, the human race is done for. Mickey, in the way he lives his life, is a beacon of hope.
Jimmy: Joe Allen
Sandra: Sally Bankes
Vincenzo: James Corrigan
Leon: Tom Georgeson
Mickey: TJ Jones
Donna: Lena Kaur
Marchese: Edmund Kingsley
Razor: Patrick Knowles
Prime: Leo Lopez
Damon: Paul McEwan
Lavinia: Allison McKenzie
Caravaggio: Patrick O’Kane
Danny: Nicky Priest
Jennifer: Paislie Reid
Voice of Hench: Anthony Renshaw
Lee: Gyuri Sarossy
Emily: Eloise Secker

Director: Erica Whytman
Designer: Tim Piper
Lighting: Charles Balfour
Sound: Martin Slavin
Movement: Michael Ashcroft
Fights: Paul Benzing
Video: Nina Dunn

2016-12-19 12:46:16

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