Discussing the topic of abortion in a church venue may seem like a controversial and edgy thing to do. Yet though central to the plot, Sanctuary never seeks to preach – at least, not about that. Rather, it focuses on the relationship at the heart of the matter and presents it in its uncomfortably believable, fragile glory.
It does take a while to do this, however. Three quarters of an hour is not that long for a play, but the pacing is very leisurely. We meet a couple; we see them have to make a decision about a pregnancy; we see the impact on their relationship. Quite simple and to the point, yet not quite wholesome enough to grip the audience. This is largely because the end is revealed in the middle of the play through the delivery of two monologues. Though perhaps one of the most interesting and heartfelt bits of the play, delivered excellently by the pair of actors, the choice to state the result at this point means the audience lacks anticipation for anything following it and are thus just waiting for the end to happen.
The script does a good job at presenting two very believable characters, yet at times it tries a bit too hard. Some dialogue at the beginning in particular seems a little forced in an attempt to make it sound conversational. Long awkward pauses that are an accurate depiction of real-life go on slightly too long for the stage and the patience of the audience. There are also some odd things about the set aesthetic – a table appears to be made of plexiglass whilst some objects are real and some appear to made out of paper. Perhaps it’s attempting to display the monotony of real-life, but they feel a bit awkward and out-of-place.
The performance of the pair of actors is quite engaging; both clearly understand their parts very well and present two very flawed if ultimately sympathetic characters. Whilst a decent character piece, an increased pace and less overly-realistic approach to some of the dialogue would improve things for Sanctuary. The monologues delivered were intriguing and perhaps the play would have been better incorporating this style more often.