Monday, 13 July 2015

'Temple' at the Donmar Warehouse

There's a new play on at the Donmar and it is well worth seeing. 'Temple' is a new play starring Simon Russell Beale as the Dean of St Paul's during the Occupy protest a few years ago. The protest was meant to be outside the stock exchange but was moved on and ened up being outside St Paul's Cathedral at which point it closed it's doors to worshippers for the first time ever. The play takes place the morning after the decision to re-open the cathedral as the Dean prepares to take the morning service.

Of course, it's not that straightforward. We have the City lawyer wanting St Paul's support to evict the Occupy squatters and other church leaders not agreeing the decision to re-open the church to worshippers. The play is told through the interactions between the Dean and his new temporary secretary who arrives late and tries to do the right thing. She can't, of course, but she does present another narrative to the play as the daughter of a country clergyman with another point of view. Rebecca Humphries was great in this role, uncertain of what she could say but with the courage of her convictions.

I liked this play. It spoke to me. It spoke of fear and conviction, of belief and concern, of challenges and worries and trying to do the right thing even though that thing will be considered the wrong thing by many. An impossible situation. It tries hard to avoid too much theological debate but at one point the Dean refers to the cathedral as the parish church to the City (and all the global financial institutions it holds) and you can't help but think of Jesus and the money-lenders in the temple.  

Simon Russell Beale was great as the Dean, the man at the centre of the furore who never wanted to be a public figure. His passion for what's right and fear of making the wrong decision come across very clearly as he tries to navigate a path through contrasting views - and fails. St Paul's had stayed open during the Blitz and only closed under his tenure - the weight of failure must have been awful. I wonder if the real Dean has seen this and what he thinks of it? I thought it was a powerful piece of theatre but it left so much of the story untold. Maybe we'll see more?

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