Intense and riveting production of Dante’s masterpiece
Dante’s narrative poem was completed in 1320, one year before his death. Telling the story of the soul's journey towards God, Dante was very much a man of his time. So It Goes Theatre have taken this late Medieval epic and given it contemporary focus.
Adapted and directed by Douglas Baker, the show starts with Dante’s attempt to communicate and hold onto his dead lover Beatrice as she walks, ghost like, across the room. It’s immediately affecting, as she doesn’t see him at all. His sense of stricken loss is something we can all share. What follows is Dante’s attempt to find her again in paradise. In this allegorical tale, he goes through hell (the inferno and purgatory), to reach her with the help of a stranger. Along the way he meets many people whose path in life is met with cruelly germane punishments in death. There is a horrible acerbic wit to these grotesquely apt castigations, (especially pertinent for anyone who feels they have an axe to grind).
Dante is horrified by the suffering but is powerless to help. Eventually, the stranger who is guiding him sends him unaided into paradise (as he himself is pagan and not permitted to enter). Dante finally encounters Beatrice again, but finds that she is quite content and he must face life alone. The conclusion to the show is quite beautiful, but you must judge for yourself when you go to see it.
The cast seem too young to be able to give full vent to such deep and savage material. Yet, it does work because none of them try to express sentiments with their faces, they use their powerful voices to give contrast instead. As a result, the verse is allowed to shine. The chorus, Sofia Greenacre, Sophia Speakman, Marialuisa Ferro and Michaela MacKenzie have been cleverly chosen for their rich tones and range of pitches.
Music plays a major part in this production with Sound Designer Richard Kerry using a mixture of pounding rock tracks alongside sublime classical music to create mood. Other tricks which help to hold the attention is the excellent primal choreography from Movement Director Matthew Coulton and Animations by Matthew Kirke & Douglas Baker. The video, shadow puppetry and the casts’ shadows on the backdrop show that a lavish set is dispensable.
The production was not completely flawless. Towards the back half of the play, the energy dropped and it seemed the play was going on a bit too long. It happened just at the point the cast started to interact with the audience, although this was funny, it slowed the show. It did pick up again and blasted through to a very satisfying conclusion.
Overall, this was an intense and riveting show with magnificent intension. What will they do for an encore?
Read our interview with Douglas Baker telling us about the development of the show here
SO IT GOES THEATRE PRESENTS
Dante’s Divine Comedy
Baron’s Court Theatre 5th - 30th September 2017
BOX OFFICE 0208 932 4747
Reviewer Heather Jeffery is editor of London Pub Theatres magazine www.londonpubtheatre.com (email for press releases: email@example.com)
She was playwright and Artistic Director of Changing Spaces Theatre. Her credits include productions at Drayton Arms Theatre (Kensington), Old Red Lion Theatre (Islington), VAULT festival (Waterloo), St Paul’s Church (Covent Garden), Cockpit Theatre (Marylebone) and Midlands Arts Centre (Birmingham)