The Heretic

ZOE D’AVIGNON is dazzled by science in The Heretic.

Peterhouse Theatre the heretic zoe d'avignon

Friends of Peterhouse Theatre, 7.30 PM, March 4th-6th, £6/5.

The Heretic follows Dr Diane Cassell, a leading sea level specialist in a University who is viewed as a heretic for her renegade views on climate change. The result of her controversial professional position? She is ostracized her from her department and threatened by Green militia. The plot is more exciting than it sounds. The first half consists of humorous scientific quips, academic bureaucracy, innuendos, and an excessive amount of science. Bizarrely, the plot then moves on to an assortment of anorexia, self-harm, death threats from the ‘Sacred Earth Militia’ who plan to kidnap the doctor, fighting, death, resurrection, drug abuse and marriage. It is an impressive list, and it all happens on Boxing Day.


Imagine if Hollyoaks, Hamlet and The Big Bang Theory were fused together to create a play. It dragged on in the way that Hamlet does, it dealt with teen issues like Hollyoaks and yet it was also about science. It felt like a Natsci had written an extended inside joke, flight of fancy or satire, but it somehow got edited by an art student who, being in week 7 of the Tragedy paper, inserted emotional trauma with gusto.

Aside from the plot-based identity crisis, the performance was really enjoyable. The dialogue is truly superb; Alex Greenwood plays the disillusioned and provocative daughter (Phoebe) with comic timing and appropriate tenacity. Her observations are hilarious: she describes the classic (and inevitably strained) Boxing Day scrabble game as a middle class hell; “a quasi-educational mind fuck wank-fest fascist prison”. Alex was poised between humorous delivery and a poignant portrayal of an angst ridden youth.

Rebecca Hare brings a steely intelligence teemed with a soft vulnerability that makes her portrayal of Dr Diane Cassell believable. Theo McCausland is perfectly cast to play the enthusiastic student that falls in love with Pheobe. At times Theo lacks presence; at others his delivery was easy and light. Kevin Maloney plays Diane’s ex-lover and science PR man extraordinaire who is as eager to get into bed with commercial sponsors as he is to cosy up to Diane. Their dynamic was delivered impeccably; competitive professionally whilst simultaneously familiar and flirtatious. Kevin initially appeared a little stiff, moving jerkily around the stage and not facing the audience. As the performance developed however he softened and improved progressively. His hair cut is perhaps a bit distracting–a noughties boy band hair flicking was a central feature of his performance.

This play oscillates between the political and the personal, extreme in both but settled in neither. However, the performance was excellently timed, delivered and energised. It was, despite the odd juxtaposition of plot themes, crammed with quick wit and funny interplays that were delivered seamlessly. A little avant-garde, but nonetheless performed extremely well.