Think faith, but mind business

Essex County Standard: Impressive: David Tarkenter as King David. Impressive: David Tarkenter as King David.

I think it rather apt that on the night I saw this world premiere, politicians were still talking about the Iraq war on the TV when I came home.

The legitimisation of war was just one of the many issues that came out of this supremely thought-provoking play. Others included the contradictions within religious doctrine, the misuse of power and man’s inhumanity towards man.

Pretty heavy stuff and, at 2½ hours, perhaps a play for the die-hard Mercury loyalists. Fortunately, director Dee Evans has quite a number of these, built up from years of top-notch productions.

So, as you would expect from the Mercury Theatre Company, there were some really great performances.

David Tarkenter, as King David, in possibly his most challenging role at the Mercury to date, was very impressive and Tony Casement’s puckish Lucifer was a real highlight of the play. Interestingly, while his comic turn did bring some light relief to some of the more worthy aspects of the piece, it did, at times, sit uneasy with the graphic nature of such things.

I also quite liked Sara Perks’ set, although based on past productions I did half expect her Sistine Chapel-inspired flats to be pushed open at one stage to reveal a replica of Jerusalem.

As for the play itself, playwright Fraser Grace throws a lot at you, and towards the end I did feel bombarded by all the philosophical notions each character was offering up in quick succession.

And not all of them rang true. There was a very good reason kings like David were men of blood – because if they didn’t strike absolute fear into others with their abject cruelty they would be struck down themselves.

I’m not exactly sure they would have had a crisis of faith, it’s just, as the Godfather would have put it, business.

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