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A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!





Holy Warriors


Alexander Siddig as Saladin in David Eldridge's 2014 production of Holy Warriors running at Shakespeare's Globe 18 July - 24 August
Photo by Marc Brenner


by David Eldridge

Directed by James Dacre

Composed by Elena Langer

Designed by Mike Britton


Shakespeare’s Globe


18 July – 24 August 2014



‘Holy Warriors,’ by ‘In Basildon’ playwright David Eldridge, comes with a warning: this production contains violence, firearms, gunshots, explosions and some politicians. Yet here is the difficulty - what is its tone? The broad-strokes and elaborate costuming of director James Dacre’s production look at odds against the earthy symbolism of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. In the first half, less would be more, while the khaki and Kalashnikov clash against the theatre’s Pillars of Hercules in the second.

Part One concentrates on Saladin, Richard the Lionheart and the Crusades of the twelfth century – the original holy wars. Part Two sees Richard in limbo, possibly purgatory, as he, and we, traverse the centuries to the present day in the perennial struggle for Jerusalem and the holy lands against a contemporary context of the war against terror and jihad. Did one man’s decision define the future? And was that person the ‘jokey’ Richard, the absent figure-head, in the legend of Robin Hood?

Saladin (Alexander Siddig) is alone at the beginning, hesitant over his manoeuvres with the scimitar. With practice he becomes more assured, accomplished; it is a significant moment. Richard (the resonant John Hopkins) on the other hand comes across as a bit of a light-weight - ‘frivolous,’ the King of France (Jolyon Coy) calls him. The production’s short, sharp scenes, with a nod at times to Shakespeare’s Henry V, come alive in the second half. Richard’s mother, the charismatic Eleanor of Aquitaine (Geraldine Alexander) shapes the drama: ‘I will show you another past and, another future. Then, King, what will you do this time?’

A Panoply of historical figures from Napoleon to Tony Blair show the middle-east plagued by the meddlesome west, obduracy and vengeance. At the crux of this political pageantry - what do we learn from history? While ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ The time lapse in drift-net style reaches out to the sovereign state of Israel, the Camp David peace agreement, 9/11, and a recent savagery, the kidnapping and burning of teenage boys on either side of the Palestinian divide. This is a shrewd, theatrical conception by Eldridge, encapsulated in a single speech, timely delivered by Alexander to a committed audience. In a single united moment, humanity re-asserts itself.  

Mike Britton’s circular design of sand-encrusted, white-washed medieval city dominates The Globe’s stage. At its centre stands a golden throne, above it, suspended, is a huge cross with two sides, the blood-red of the Crusades and the bejewelled inlay of Eastern Orthodoxy. Dramatically, it tips and inverts, like a Deus ex machina with connotations of martyrdom and sacrifice. The music, composed by Elena Langer, is a blend of east-west, its contemporary troubadour-cum-opera style, with strings and riffs from oud and electric guitar is intentionally unsettling, challenging. Yet this compelling sound-score fits the fantasia-themed, epic sweep, of Dacre’s production, while candles, incense and tapestries add to an already heady experience.

The acting ensemble does a very good job with Eldridge’s raw material, like taming an un-broken horse They coax, tease and ultimately win through with commitment and honesty, particularly Siddig, Hopkins and Alexander in lead roles, with Jolyon Coy and Sirine Saba as a whimsical Lawrence of Arabia and Berengaria of Navarre respectively. Holy Warriors is an ambitious, epic, historical project, but a worthy one - a universal story of power, politics and atrocities waged in the name of religion and absolutism. ‘There will be no peace if there is no humility,’ says Saladin as the eyes of history, from the twelfth century to the present day, turn their faces expectantly towards Richard.......



John Hopkins as Richard the Lionheart in David Eldridge's 2014 production of Holy Warriors running at Shakespeare's Globe 18 July - 24 August
Photo by Marc Brenner


Shakespeare’s Globe
New Globe Walk
London SE1 9DT

Tickets from £5 to £39



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