Holy Warriors, Shakespeare's Globe, review: Fantastically ambitious

A brave, prodigious and rewarding experience

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The Independent Culture

David Eldridge's fantastically ambitious play colonises the Globe in a flamboyantly orchestrated production of great sensuous sweep and dialectical dazzle by James Dacre.  It's a “fantasia” built around the Third Crusade (1188-92) and the clash of religions over control of Jerusalem.

The first quasi-Shakespearean section takes us up to the death of Richard the Lionheart (superb John Hopkins) whom we then follow to Purgatory where he is treated to a designedly bizarre tumbling prequel of the Middle East problem in its recurring guises through the centuries (ranging from Napoleon through Lawrence of Arabia, Jimmy Carter et al to a present day Jihadist, not forgetting Tony Blair).

The 12th century Crusade is then recapitulated with pointed variations (modern mufti and weaponry) in which the mistakes of this foreseen future (so to speak) are not transcended. Gaza casts its shadow.

It's a terrific concept and (like the packed house) I was gripped.  I did occasionally indulge the heretical thought that I would like to see this piece (custom-composed for the Globe) in an indoor venue. 

The dialogue, to my ear, doesn't have quite the pinging timbre nor the rhetorical lift/robust earthiness of the best new writing for this outdoor arena (Howard Brenton's, supremely) and the story-telling is a bit congested and not always clear. 

But if this positive report comes with a clatter of caveats, make no mistake that Holy Warriors is a brave, prodigious and rewarding experience.

To 24 August; 020 7401 9919