Dante Alighieri. Lost love. A load of puppets. Whilst that might all seem an odd combination, Mike Maran brings it all together admirably in
Maran treats Alighieri’s tripartite poetry with both the well-earned respect and erudite teasing it deserves.
And that’s oddly appropriate, because A Divine Comedy is clearly a show borne out of love for the source material. I cannot stress this enough. Maran’s utter reverence and good-natured lampooning of Alighieri’s classic poems is so engrossing because it’s clear that it’s the tip of an iceberg, composed of countless hours of enjoyment of Dante’s work. Every joke, every hushed description, every turn of phrase has it’s root in Inferno, Purgatorio or Paradiso, and it’s a great game to try and spot all of them - especially the very clever ones. More than once I found myself giggling uncontrollably in my seat, as geeky as that proves me to be.And it’s impossible to get away from the fact that this is just a feel-good show. Maran’s subtle tweaking of Dante’s outdated religious messages turns something which could have felt preachy into a genuinely cheering piece of storytelling, and his descriptions of the beauty of both Paradiso and the latter parts of Purgatorio are enough to make the heart swell.But, there are components of the performance which left me wanting. I often wanted more energy from Maran, especially during his descriptions of the utter horror of Hell. Despite a few brief outbursts, I never quite felt the nightmare landscapes of Inferno as much as I did those of Purgatory and Paradise. More pronounced changes in cadence, volume and tone would add another star to this performance, but as it stands, some lines just didn’t capture the utter rush of emotions described in the work, simply because they felt a little muted. In addition, lines were sometimes choppy or repeated, which made certain segments feel slightly stumbled or under-rehearsed.
However, this was an undeniably enjoyable piece of storytelling, despite a few gripes. Maran treats Alighieri’s tripartite poetry with both the well-earned respect and erudite teasing it deserves. His twists on the original keep it fresh enough to be interesting, yet familiar enough to be recognisable - A Divine Comedy is certainly a worthwhile adaptation.