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)
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 4 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 5 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Everything extra JK Rowling has revealed about Harry Potter
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Refugees welcome: More than 250,000 sign Independent petition calling for Britain to 'take its fair share'