This intelligent piece of theatre focuses on the religious faith of the famous Scottish Olympian Eric Liddell and his trainer, Tom McKerchar. Liddell is set to win the gold medal for the 100-metre sprint, but the heat is due to take place on a Sunday. As a devout Christian, Liddell feels unable to compete on a Sunday, as Sunday should be a day of rest. His trainer must attempt to get the heat moved to another day, or Liddell will only be able to compete in the 400 metres, very much his secondary category.
This is an emotionally resonant piece of theatre that successfully conveys a focused portrait of Eric Liddell.
Searchlight is a Christian theatre company devoted to telling stories they feel are important, with a Christian message. This play, with its focus very much on Liddell's faith, certainly falls well within its remit. The company has an overtly Christian objective and this, along with the fact that the show takes place within a church a long way out of central Edinburgh, means it seems to attract predominantly Christian audiences. Despite this, however, there is no sense that this is aimed purely at the faithful. The play is primarily a well drawn character piece, and steers well clear of being a sermon.
The performers generally do credit to the script. The standout performance comes from the excellent David Robinson (Tom McKerchar), who is also co-artistic director of the company. He brings a very impressive level of charisma to his character and is an extremely engaging narrator-protagonist. Unfortunately, the other performers are less noteworthy. They do a good job of handling the script, but not much above and beyond that.
The staging is largely well executed. The naturalistic set blends surprisingly well with the ambience of the church, and the costumes, while not exactly period appropriate, are tonally in keeping with the aesthetic. One issue is the acoustics. The very large, high-ceilinged church at once swallows and echoes the performers' voices, meaning concentration is required to follow the dialogue.
On the whole, this is an emotionally resonant piece of theatre that successfully conveys a focused portrait of Eric Liddell.