Faith

Fri 1st – Sat 9th August 2014

reviews

Marnie Langeroodi

at 01:38 on 10th Aug 2014

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‘Faith’ is a great show in almost every aspect. Through the costume and music we are instantly transported to a small country village in the 1940s. The play is structured so that the Reverend (Tom Pethick) is at its heart, as he’s at the heart of the close-knit community. The irony is that while the troubled Reverend is the confidant of all the villagers, he won’t confide in anyone himself.

The script, by Luke Nixon and James Mudge is fantastic – the play is a blend of both light-hearted exchanges and moments of intense desperation. Incredibly, the play is inspired by the true story of Imber, a village in Wiltshire, which was evacuated in 1943. It remains a ghost-town and is now used by the Ministry of Defence for training. The final scene of the play is set in this present-day circumstance. The village’s Grade I listed 13th century church – the Reverend’s domain – is still in working order.

Without exception, the entire cast is very strong. Pethick performs with a high level of intensity; at times he was captivating. There is little variation is the part, however. James Rose as Captain Kurt Raymond is excellent. He is completely convincing both as the professional Captain that he starts off and the master of seduction before his final transformation at the climax of the show. The scene between Kurt and Martha (Kathryn Rew) is by far the best of the play. It is surprising in its sudden escalation and totally catches the audience off-guard.

The fact that the Reverend and his son, David (Edward J.C Davies) read their letters aloud to the audience is effective. These letters carry great emotional weight and also work to further the plot. Deeply affected by the war, David is losing his faith in God. Though I presume this is what gives the title, this father-son storyline is, in fact, slightly overshadowed by that of Kurt, Martha and her husband, Albert (Oliver Birden).

My only criticism of the play is that the characters are not fully developed and instead are caricatures. There are no reasons given for why they are the way they are. Phyllis (Olivia Witts) is the most notably exaggerated character. While this works comically, such a strong figure can become tiresome.

I was very surprised to learn after the show that the cast are all so young (around seventeen) – their achievement is truly impressive.

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Bridey Addison-Child

at 02:38 on 10th Aug 2014

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Written, produced and performed entirely by young adults (most of whom are yet to fly the nest) this striking tragi-comedy showcases the best of fledgling, British talent. ‘Faith’ sees Reverend William (Tom Pethick) struggle to retain his status as the pillar of the community when Military Forces and the ongoing rumble of WWII threaten his village.

‘I am the Good Shepard’ Pethick states emphatically in the opening scenes. This pretty much summarises his role in the play: a quiet, reserved, Man-of-God, who endeavours to lead his flock as best as he can. This is despite his son’s lengthy absence away to the frontline (which, from the off, is not quite what it seems).

The central theatrical power of the piece came from the rise and lull of emotion throughout. The script flowed brilliantly from Pethick’s calm Sermons to the bustle of everyday village life to the strongly invasive presence of the Military. Tension was built to breaking point, but then punctuated by intelligent comic relief in the form of duo Phyllis and Bernie (portrayed skillfully by Olivia Witts and Alex Pugh, respectively). This well tuned dramatic pace was enriched by the acting talent; Pugh’s comic timing was second to none, and Kathryn Rew (playing Martha Nash) is one to watch, with her understated, yet emotionally charged performance.

Despite this, there were times when I found the writing of the characters lacking depth – I kept willing Reverend Williams to cheer up a bit, or for Phyllis to be something other than the token fiancé, even if the character’s primary role was comedic. Equally, it’s a shame that Nixon and Mudge couldn’t find room in their script for a stronger female character – the women consisted purely of quiet, swooning and often irritating wives (one line I found particularly hard to stomach pertained to husbands being ‘pecked by their hens’) – but admittedly this is forgivable in the traditional patriarchal context of the 1940s.

One stereotype that did work to devastating effect was that of Captain Kurt Raymond (James Rose), who was the dashingly handsome, if obnoxious, American soldier. His character enables the climactic peak of the play, which was the wonderfully wild, theatrically electric highlight of the show.

The plot wavered a little around this pivotal scene – there were a few loose ends that were never quite tied up, but overall this is a play sparkling with diamonds just waiting to be polished. Its examination of the effect of war on individuals and the community, now and in the past, is incredibly topical. I cannot think of a more relevant and poignant piece of theatre, in this, the year of the WWI Centenary, whilst war crises rage on the other side of the world.

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