Saw this last night….if you have the chance, please go.
It was truly excellent, interweaving the personal stories of members of the cast (which include an army child growing up under the constant threat of IRA bombs and a Catholic struggling with the realities of life in N. Ireland) with the story of the Gunpowder plot. As we follow Everard from the his glory days as a carefree young Lord, through the watershed of a life changing illness, to a career as a religious fanatic, it’s impossible not to recognise how the sincerity of his beliefs is mirrored today in the work of religious terrorists.
But this is our “hero”.
The voice of the state, as represented by Robert Cecil, co-ordinator of the “war on treason”, is surely the villain of the piece…and we see James 1 travel from optimistic religious tolerance through fear to a paranoia that sees threats everywhere. Against this journey is set in counterpoint his warm relationship with his Catholic Queen, reminding us of the hope that exists if we are ready to recognise the person beneath the label. He tells her that he can trust her, because he knows her heart…but as intolerance and suspicion grow, even that trust can be shaken. At one point James reflects that he loves hunting because only then is he sure that he is pursuer and not quarry, for in this world there are, in the end no heroes, no villains. Instead everyone is a victim of the overwhelming fear.
When the play ended, there was a moment of profound, prayerful silence before the applause.
I hope nobody asks us to a Bonfire Party this year. I don’t think I’d enjoy it.