Preview: Speaking Like Magpies, Swan Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

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The Independent Culture

"I'd expected Frank to explore the legitimacy of terrorism, and that he might display a more Catholic-sympathetic position than the history books take. But what he's written is much more provocative and complex: a kind of mystic investigation of what differentiates a Catholic and Protestant sensibility: what does a climate of terror do to people's political and emotional make-up?"

The writer's interest is not so much in the plotters. "He didn't want a play with men in Jacobean hats sitting around a table," says Goold. "What interested him was the prevailing climate of denial and doublespeak. There's this Mephistophelean character called the Equivocator. Although human in form, he's Puck-like: he embodies the spirit of the age, in particular equivocation - telling the truth yet lying at the same time - which is what the Jesuits stood accused of.

"In several scenes characters are interrogated, abused and even tortured. And this erotic, sado-machistic quality has slightly emerged in the fabrics and the textures of the costumes. The Gunpowder Plot emerges as a sort of technologically contemporary reworking of the Jacobean masque. There's a huge amount of music in it. Frank's language is more vernacular than literal, and very dreamlike: it's a wonderful script to work with.

"The resonances with today are all there: the cast doesn't have to force them. Hopefully, the audience will draw its own conclusions."

21 September to 5 November (0870 609 1110)

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