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Review of The Resurrectionist at the Etcetera Theatre

The ResurrectionistThis play certainly has many of the hallmarks of Gothic fiction, combining science fiction, death and a touch of love. There are, however, different ways of looking at the work of Victor Darvell (a stand-out performance from Peter Dewhurst) in The Resurrectionist, and it is not altogether clear that he is a villain. Indeed, this production seems to portray Pastor Cornelius (Mike Anfield), as the epitome of organised Western Christian religion at the height of its powers some 200 years ago, as the definitive antagonist. After all, what Darvell achieves at the request of Lord Byron (Tristan Rogers) is, although fanciful, a scientific advancement (assuming suspension of disbelief), and it is only the prevailing morals of the day that stand against Darvell’s efforts.

What strikes me, as someone from a religious background, is the hypocrisy of the Cornelius character; there are active members of the clergy today who are just like him, preaching morals and so-called righteousness, whatever that may be, whilst being largely devoid of decent standards of behaviour in his own conduct. Some may have felt the character overdone, perhaps even a little melodramatic. I disagree: Cornelius represents organised religion, then and now, with bull’s-eye accuracy. And it almost goes without saying that if raising the dead is a sin, then what is Pastor Cornelius to make of the Divine Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Darvell, fortunately, has no time, or rather no inclination, for theological discussion with a stubborn power-mad figurehead who will not listen to reason. Elsewhere, was interesting to see a different Lord Byron, away from public eyes – this is Gothic, so it’s set in a secluded place – who, far from being an arrogant alpha male, seems so lost and vulnerable without his trusty servant Blaize (Tom Everatt) that he will go to any lengths necessary to have Blaize, well, restored. The clue as to what exactly happens is in the show’s title.

It’s a very wordy script, and the arguments, whether moral or scientific or both, in support of and against what’s going on, repeatedly piqued my own curiosity, though I strongly suspect not everyone would wish to maintain interest in what can be quite deep and difficult issues to consider. It is, frankly, like sitting through an academic seminar, albeit an intriguing one. As the production is stripped of copious amounts of fake blood, caricatures and ridiculous ‘I vant to thuck your blood’ style accents, the show relies heavily on the script being brought to life (as it were), and this cast duly delivers.

There’s a distancing effect created through the play being set in a previous generation, and overseas, that makes this gory story paradoxically enjoyable, insofar as the audience is very much aware they are watching a play even as they are absorbed in the action. Both the set and lighting are suitably dark, and although relatively minor characters, Mary Shelley (Samantha Kamras) and Professor Graber (Mark Shaer) are worthy additions to the plot.

The ending, when it came, was not one I had expected – and, to be honest, was slightly disappointing given the build up to it. But, all in all, this play held my attention throughout and is a solid and dependable Gothic-esque drama for a twenty-first century audience.

4 Stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The Resurrectionist
Playwrights Robert Pope and Ian Dixon Potter
Director Courtney Larkin
Composer Nick Barstow

Golden Age Theatre Company
Cast: Michael Andrews, Peter Dewhurst, Tom Everatt, Sam Kamras, Tristan Rogers and Mark Shaer

September 27th to October 9th, 2016
Tuesday-Saturday 7pm
Sunday 6pm

Etcetera Theatre
above the Oxford Arms, 265 Camden High St, London
90 mins
£12 (£10 concessions)

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