It is very rare for an amateur performance to completely captivate an audience and hold them in absolute suspense. It is even rarer for a performance to introduce a better version of the original play so you wouldn’t wish to see the traditional version.
Yet Mansfield-based Zodiac Theatre’s performance last night (Wednesday August 6), directed by Simon Ward achieved precisely these two feats.
The harrowingly beautiful tale of Agnes of God follows court psychiatrist, Doctor Livingstone (played by Anna Sanderson), as she works through a case which tests her atheism to the absolute limits. Young nun Agnes (Lindsay Foster), is about to face trail for murder of her newborn child and Doctor Livingstone has been tasked with determining whether she is clinically insane. The difficulties arise as Agnes has been raised in a protective bubble and has reached 21-years-old completely ignorant of the realities of the world around her, and her Mother Superior (Katie Ward) intends to preserve this pure innocence. This sparks the age-old clash between religion and science as each try to do what’s best for Agnes.
Traditionally, Agnes of God is performed as a musical, with lengthy songs sung by Agnes in Latin. However, this visionary performance cast the play at the other end of the spectrum by shrouding it in silence. There was no accompanying music, there was no singing and at times the silence in the tiny Lace Market Theatre was deafening. This provided the play with an eeriness which made some of the content even more uncomfortable as the audience had nowhere to escape and drew the audience into the depths of the story. Without the sound, lighting and visuals became invaluable, and Mr Ward took full advantage of this.
Lighting was used to create different spaces for various actions to take place on what was otherwise a very basic set.
Throughout the first half which sets up the mystery, Doctor Livingstone chain smoked real cigarettes, which not only added an interesting dynamic as the smoke softened the scene and filtered through the ‘fourth wall’, but it emphasised the juxtaposition between the doctor and the nuns.
However, the second half was passionate, intense and punchy, unraveling the mystery at an alarming speed and finishing the play with a breathless revelation.
Mr Ward must be congratulated for having the confidence to strip the play right back to it’s rawest form – which also happens to be its most beautiful.
On for one night only, Thursday August 7 at 7.30pm, for tickets see www.lacemarkettheatre.co.uk.