Saturday, 2 May 2015

'Light Shining In Buckinghamshire' at the National Theatre

I saw 'Light Shining In Buckinghamshire' at the National Theatre nearly two weeks ago and I've put off blogging about it since I really don't know what to say about it. I didn't enjoy it but I must be able to find something to say about it. Shouldn't I?

It's set in the England of the 1640s during the Civil War and some of it is based on actual texts of debates at the time so the language is sometimes a bit odd. We're introduced to some of the political factions that emerged during the Civil War as well as Oliver Cromwell, the diggers and the levellers. Nothing is really explained and it seems to be assumed that we're all pretty good with our Civil War history (I'm not).

All too often it seemed like actors came on stage, made a speech to the audience and left and a new scene started. There didn't seem to be much interaction between the characters on the stage at all. There was a long scene about the 'Putney Debates' in the first half that had lots of interaction and a similar scene in the second half with the diggers talking about God and love (and sex) and how God is in everything. I yawned during that scene in the first half and wanted to like the scene in the second half but I didn't. I *so* wanted to like it.

I think part of the problem was the elaborate staging of the production and the sheer size of the cast. There must've been 40-odd people on that stage in a play originally written for a cast of six. That's over-whelming. The staging was also over the top. Almost the whole of the stage was taken up by a great wooden table that, in the first half was mainly set as a banquet for royalists and then puritans and then, in the second half, the diggers gradually lifted the planks of wood to expose soil underneath. Every so often more planks were levered up and carried off and I just wanted to shout out - ok, I get it now! It became so irritating after the umpteenth plank was carried off - was it meant to be irritating or is that just me?  I found it all terribly distracting.

So there you are. That's enough, I think. I won't be going back for second helpings.

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