Racing Demon

First performed in 1993 at The National Theatre, this eloquent play about the Church of England is part of a trilogy by award winning writer David Hare. The other two, Murmuring Judges and Absence of War dissect t skilfully examine the legal profession and political landscape as it was at that time (pre-New labour). This play does the same for the official religion of the country.Presented by pupils from Shrewsbury School, it tells several stories, but mainly that of the middle-aged Rev Lionel Espy. Espy is having a crisis of faith – not that he doesn’t believe anymore, but that he isn’t sure what place his beloved Church has in the modern world. He heads up an inner city team of priests, but they are all at odds with each other as to how best to serve their community and keep the bishops happy. The plot follows Espy’s betrayal at the hands of a younger minister.Eoin Bentik has a good stab at Espy, especially as he is at least thirty years too young for the part, as are most of these performers. On the subject of which, please, please, please don’t think by asking these lads to wear ridiculous aging make up and spray on silver hair you are making them look authentically old. They all look like young drag queens, and not very good ones at that. Not withstanding they manage to convey some sense of the crises these characters are going through. Bentik has his moments, particularly in the final moments when he reaches out to the wife he has taken for granted and is rebuffed. The pick of the rest is Joe Allan’s Rev Harry Henderson, persecuted because of his homosexuality and hounded because of his affair with a much younger man, played by Jack Flowers. Tommy Adair is also convincing as the seedy tabloid hack interested in this scandal.In the end the production is defeated by its length. Full-length plays are rarely done in Edinburgh, for a reason. To take on this behemoth you need better actors than this team provides. The staging is also very spare, with projections being used to suggest location and very little furniture is in evidence. This renders some scenes absurd to look at, as two actors and one chair does not a living room make. The direction is also perverse, with people often looking out front as they speak rather than at the person they are talking to.This isn’t a bad attempt at a very adult play, but it really is the wrong choice for school actors; they will never get anywhere near the depth required. It’s also disconcerting to find on the back page of the program a full-length evangelical plea to get to know God personally. I’m sorry? I don’t go to the theatre to be preached at or recruited, and indeed Hare’s play does anything but that.

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The Blurb

Things fall apart - the centre cannot hold.' Fringe First winners ('Jekyll!') follow 2009 five-star 'Bubble' ('Magnificent!' - ThreeWeeks) with unmissable drama. David Hare's gripping tale depicts four priests struggling to cope with their modern day calling.

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