Into Thy Hands, Wilton's Music Hall, London
Thursday 09 June 2011
When a play is described as "unashamedly literary", it is often polite code for "but dodgy as drama". This, though, is emphatically not so in the case of Into Thy Hands, Jonathan Holmes's passionately intellectual play about the metaphysical love poet and, later, Dean of St Paul's, John Donne. His play is additionally to be applauded because it shows off the architectural beauty and versatile viability as a performance space of Wilton's Music Hall, the oldest such venue in the country and one which is now in danger of closure after the Heritage Lottery Fund rejected its recent bid for £2.25m to make the building structurally sound.
Like Peter Brook's gem of a theatre in Paris, the Bouffes du Nord, Wilton's thrillingly conflates the sacred and profane, oddly resembling a place of worship as well as of vaudeville pleasures. This double-natured aspect suits the current play – in which Donne eloquently argues that the divine can only be apprehended and understood through the carnal medium of the body – down to the ground. In the author's own unforced, compelling production, an ecclesiastic shadowiness is imparted over the proceedings by Filippo de Capitani's lovely atmospheric lighting. Lucy Wilkinson's spare design is surmounted by an incense-dispensing thurible and an orrery or mechanical model of the solar system, then – as we learn in the play – the subject of much bitter and dangerous dispute.
Zubin Varla's excellent performance presents Donne as a charismatic visionary and voluptuary, fervent in his arguments against the flesh-hating preacher Lancelot Andrewes (Nicholas Rowe). You can believe that this figure translated Galileo, composed the love poems and acted as advisor on the translation of the erotically charged Song of Songs for the King James Bible. Concerned with how Donne in his "Croydon crap hole" survived poverty, lack of preferment because of his Catholic background and a loving marriage (to Jess Murphy's beguiling Ann) that was nonetheless career suicide, the play makes up for what it lacks in forward drive in the rueful humour and pained insight with which it treats his relationships with female lovers and female patrons and clerics appalled that he wants to use the word "ravish" in the Song of Songs. The dialogue is an adroitly inflected mix of the Jacobean and the modern.
To 2 July (020 7702 2789)
Books And it is whizzpopping!
MusicThey're running their own restaurants
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Dentist who illegally killed Cecil the lion blames local guides for the scandal
- 2 Kate Winslet thanked 'particularly horrible' girl who bullied her at school after Titanic success
- 3 Norwich paedophile ring: Woman at centre of gang who made children 'sexual play things' guilty of 23 offences
- 4 Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
- 5 Walter Palmer: American dentist revealed as the killer of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe
New on Netflix August 2015: From Narcos and Spellbound to Kick Ass 2 and Dinotrux
Listen! Beowulf opening line misinterpreted for 200 years
Heath Ledger's father reveals dead actor's 'Joker diary' written during The Dark Knight
Game of Thrones season 6: New toy line suggests Jon Snow is not among the dead
Spectre: Ellie Goulding is almost definitely singing the theme song to the next Bond film
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government