The Seventh Seal
ALICE BOUGHTON contemplates death and drama at the ADC theatre.
ADC, 22nd-25th February, 11pm, £4-6
Adapted and directed by Celine Lowenthal
It is no mean feat to ask an audience to sit in a darkened room for an hour contemplating their inevitable mortality and still have them emerge elated. The split between comedy and gravity in last night’s show was perfectly balanced. Harry Michell’s comic Jons offset Tom Russell’s earnest Block, while actors and flagellants brought laughter and pain into uncomfortable proximity.
Photos by Sana Ayub
The exaggerated scenes of seduction between Dom Biddle and Martha Bennett set a tone of raunchy hilarity against Edward Eustace’s warning of impending death, which was terrifying even to a modern audience. The play became all the more sad because it was funny, the glimpses of humour and happiness making the stark overall observation of mortality all the more touching.
The director’s choice to rely on the simple power of the monologue – rather than risking the ridiculous in having the scenes acted out – worked well. In replacing scenes of reality with the ambiguity of the spoken word, Lowenthal’s adaptation preserved the strange tension between the real and the supernatural on which this play thrives.
Sarah Livingstone in particular shone in a fiercely emotional description of her own death as the witch. The replacement description was both more passionate and powerful, rendering it independent of the film on which it is based while acknowledging the strengths and limits of the stage itself.
The set is fantastic – physically simple and atmospheric, with subtle allusions via video art to the landscape of the original film. The positioning of the chess game worked as an omnipresent reminder of Death, paralleling the symbolic and realist plots of the play perfectly. The costumes, too, placed the play within its medieval period, whilst their simplicity simultaneously alluded to the universality of the piece.
It is hard, really, to greatly fault either the directorial choices or the supporting acting of the play. That is not to say it was the perfect play, but at no moment did it feel as if a different decision or alternate actor would better have fitted the script. Judging by the number of seats still available on opening night, this play seems to be something of a hidden gem, and one which is definitely worth finding.