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Benn Cody and Trifle Productions present

More Light

 

by Snoo Wilson

 

Directed by Chris Hislop

 

The Rose Theatre, Bankside

 

15 November - 4 December 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!

This is the perfect venue for Snoo Wilson's homage to the Renaissance. Buried beneath a shiny glass tower and so poised between the ultra modern and the excavated remains of the early modern Rose Theatre, audiences are less likely to balk at the disconcerting mishmash of historical characters from this period who probably never actually met and the science fiction tropes more familiar to fans of Star Wars.

The hero of More Light is Giordano Bruno (Jackson Wright), burnt at the stake in 1600 for his Copernican and pantheistic beliefs and for the extraordinarily prescient notion that the stars were suns, orbited by planets in an infinite universe, ideas which were ridiculed in the 16th and 17th centuries until Newtonian cosmology rehabilitated them. The villain is the Pope (Neil Chinneck) determined by all means to burn him unless he reveals by what sorceries the heretic Queen Elizabeth I (Cassandra Hodges) managed to conjure storms to defeat the Armada. The Virgin Queen, having grown fond of Bruno during his years in the English court (1583-1585), whisks him off to a parallel world on the 'lower slopes' of a quintessentially English Heaven, complete with a female Shakespeare (Claire Jared) anxious to co-author plays with Bruno while they are served by a bawdy barmaid (Leanna Wigginton) with the powers of her parents Sycorax and Bacchus. Meanwhile, Doctor Dee (Rob Lydnon) tries to unlock a code which will allow him to converse with angels and thus free Bruno's earthly body from the impending flames, using his Caliban like sidekick Kelly (Nicholas Ruben) to divine the numbers although Kelly is more interested in carnal knowledge of heavenly beings.

The experience of trying to make sense of so many counter-intuitive circumstances and to suspend feelings of protest against playing fast and loose with history was a great strain. One waited for a Eureka moment that never came. I was reminded of other comedic plays with heavy-weight intellectual freight carried by jumbled casts of historical characters saying the most unlikely things, like Tom Stoppard's Travesties and Arcadia, feeling relieved that this post-modern fashion for philosophical potpourri didn't last. In More Light, the stage is peopled with writers like Bruno and Shakespeare arguing (rather wearily) about writing, the subject of the play is, self-referentially, writing, and it is difficult to be sure who is writing who in terms of plot so that we could have done with both more heat and more light to make sense of the argument.

The energy and charm of the actors was a great boon and the sex scenes, entertainingly reminiscent of A Midsummer Night's Dream, were greatly helped by Leanna Wigginton's Barbara Windsor type barmaid, providing a nice contrast to Cassandra Hodges' Virgin Queen, played with the imperial frost of a Miranda Richardson. Neil Chinneck was a superbly nasty Pope, although this was like a medieval morality play in the sense that good and evil were reversed but neither was given any real intellectual depth to justify their convictions, in spite of all the sophisticated ideas being merrily bandied about on stage.

I think the audience left feeling bemused, as if in spite of concentrating very hard they had missed some vital point, although I wonder if Snoo Wilson himself could tell us what that was. I enjoyed the mystery and magus-like enchantment of the set design by Mike Lees and as always, the wonderful welcome at the Rose Theatre, now coming with mulled wine, most appreciated on a freezing winter night by the Thames.


 

The Rose Theatre
 Bankside, 56 Park Street, London SE1 9AS

Monday 15th November to Saturday 4th December: 7:30pm (No Sun performances)

Tickets £10.00 / £8.00 concessions

Box Office: 020 7261 9565

 

 

 

 

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