Racing Demon

Tue 3rd – Sat 7th February 2015

reviews

Elizabeth Crowdy

at 01:28 on 4th Feb 2015

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My experience of Corpus Mainshow 'Racing Demon' this week was an intellectual one, with clear themes of religion, love, conflict and inner city struggle. Despite this, the play remained aloof, and fell somewhat short of engaging.

The set was minimal, which worked to the advantage of the play, as it did not distract from the character development. The lighting supported this, providing subtle indications of scene changes and physical separation between characters simultaneously on-stage. The symbol of the cross hanging far enough away from the wall to cast a shadow provided an almost ominous reminder of the presence watching over the priests as they internally debated their religious dilemmas.

The plot of four vicars and their troubles with dwindling inner-city London parishioners is a thoughtful one, played out well by a strong cast. The structure of dialogue and monologue scenes gave the audience an insight into the difficulties of circumnavigating differences in the views of the various priests whilst retaining a solid support network for people in difficult social situations, in this case represented solely by Stella Marr (Rebecca Thomas), a young woman experiencing the aftermath of an abortion and a turbulent marriage. The monologues were well executed, with Silas Lee’s Rev. Lionel Espy presenting particularly powerful portrayal of a priest torn between the demands of the bishop and his own desires for his parish.

There were much needed moments of humour in the play, with Heather Fantham stealing the show as the hilarious Rev. Donna ‘Streaky’ Bacon. Drunken monologues are difficult to pull off convincingly, yet the choice to include this was not in vain, and her character gave some relief from the otherwise serious and involved religious debates.

The subject matter was thought provoking, with questions of the importance of teaching the Bible, homosexuality in the church and practising religion in an increasingly sceptical society. This made for a thought provoking evening, but at times this felt disconnected from the audience. Even the scenes most loaded with emotion were not engaging enough to keep me in the moment, and I often found myself reflecting on the religious discourse in which the script was firmly situated. The long monologues were interesting in their ideas, but often dragged, especially as similar issues of how to interest people in the teachings of the church were repeated throughout.

It would have been useful for the more intimate scenes between Lionel and his wife, Tony and Frances and Lionel and Frances to be more dynamic, but the continued dialogue and monologue structure following the theme of religion made the play slightly one-dimensional. The only hints of relationships outside of the church were in fleeting touches of the face from Lionel to Frances and Ewan to Harry. This centralised religion effectively, as none of the characters seemed able to get past it, yet also made the play less vibrant.

Having a thought provoking play which forced me to consider religion and the issues of managing an urban parish was a novel experience. It raised some engaging questions in my mind, but I feel that in this play, these questions could have been better presented to the audience with a faster paced rendition of the relationships and interactions.

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