Socialist Worker

The Seduction of Almighty God: a wonderful example of ‘theatre of catastrophe’

by Mark Brown
Issue No. 2027

The Seduction of Almighty God

The Seduction of Almighty God

The Great English playwright Howard Barker has been marginalised by the London theatre establishment - none of his dramas have been staged by the National Theatre in London.

Yet, many of his plays, such as The Castle and Scenes From An Execution, have been hailed as modern classics around the world.

More often than not inspired by historical events, the plays of Barker’s self-described “theatre of catastrophe” are powerfully unsettling, deeply ambiguous and profoundly affecting works of imagination.

His latest piece, The Seduction of Almighty God, is set in England in 1539, with Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries underway.

Despite the breach between the English king and the Catholic church, Loftus, a 17 year old Catholic zealot, stands stoically at the gates of an abbey, demanding entry.

He is accepted as a novice priest. Once inside, the young fundamentalist finds that, as the English state’s noose tightens around the abbey, his unbending (and unforgiving) faith and his capacity for physical and sexual self-denial give him power over others.

As so often in Barker, matters of sex and death come powerfully to the fore.

The question is raised as to whether god is working his power through the young priest, or Loftus has, somehow, seduced god himself.

The drama continues the playwright’s tradition of combining highly poetic speech with informal and profane language.

The stark, but never gratuitous, use of the body is also a continued feature.

The play, in which an excellent English and French cast is directed with beautiful austerity by Guillaume Dujardin, is open to many interpretations.

The director himself considers its implications to be “more psychological than political”.

However, as, the modern world begins to intrude on the 16th century, one of the play’s many aspects is a profound comment upon a brutal form of modernity that is giving new credence to the certainties of religious politics.

The Seduction of Almighty God

Directed by Guillaume Dujardin
At Riverside Studios, London, 5-9 December 

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Sat 18 Nov 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2027
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