Tuesday, September 04, 2007

No more muderous catholics!! (Reverence - Southwark Playhouse)

My flatmate, a nervous beast at the best of times, has had a hard time of it the last couple of days. First dark goings on amongst the religious in Silent Witness, and then I drag her to Reverence at the Southwark Playhouse. Staged as promenade performance underneath the railway arches that form the playhouse's temporary home, Reverence is Goat and Monkey's take on the story of Abelard and Heloise, a classic tale of forbidden love, incestuous lust and genital mutilation.

The designers have nullified the oft noted problem of in the round and promenade performances of the audience interjecting into the performance by co-opting them. Dressed in full length black cowls and addressed as novice monks the dark masses moving through the vaults and surrounding the performers only add to the atmosphere rather than distracting from it.

This is a staging that is high on atmosphere and physicality but sometimes lacking in emotion. Some of the pivotal scenes may have benefited from more time to breathe, but I suspect that this may have merely served to highlight the weakness of the (I suspect devised) script. Also I did not find myself caring much about Leandra Ashton's Heloise nor Pieter Lawman's Abelard, a near fatal weakness in what is at heart a love story.

What saves Reverence are a couple of excellent performances by Michael Cox as Thomas Abelard's snivelling, treacherous assistant, and Jason Cheater as Sir William Abelard's nemesis, a design that is unrelentingly dark, threatening and slowly gets under your skin, and a series of violent set pieces that are shocking but fully justified by the rest of the play.

All in all worth seeing, if only for the able to dress up and chant in latin.


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