Murder in the Cathedral (FringeTIX)
The Therry Dramatic Society @ St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral
2:00pm, Sat 8 Mar 2008
Inside the stone environs of St Xavier’s cathedral, it’s still pretty warm… yes, the stone has kept the temperature down (compared to outside), but there’s little-to-no air movement. The sell-out crowd (they allocated tickets to cover the central section of the cathedral) have spread out to the wings; that’s where I’m positioned, too. It’s certainly less sweat-inducing, but as a consequence I (and many others) spend a great deal of the performance sliding along the pews trying to get a glimpse of the action between the cathedral’s supporting columns.
It’s a very straightforward presentation – it seems like, after the masterstroke of hosting the performance in the cathedral, all directoral ambition went out the window. It’s all front-of-stage, eyes-forward… uninspired. There’s a few non-traditional entrances, using the many facilities of the cathedral, but other than that it’s a very traditional presentation. Costumes are competent, and it’s a very faithful adaptation of TS Eliot’s play.
And that’s a problem. After initially making mental notes that Act I felt too long, then noting that Act II also felt too long, I dug out my beloved Complete Poems and Plays to check the original play… only to discover (and I say this as a massive TS Eliot poetry fan) that Thomas Stearns just plain fucked up with this play. Especially the ending; just when you think the performance is over, out trots the cast in their groups to deliver their soliloquies… the audience delivers a premature applause once, then linger so long at the true end-of-show applause that the cast don’t bother showing their faces (or maybe it’s because it was stinking hot in the church).
To be fair, few other playwrights possess the beautiful perfunctory end-of-scene flourishes of Shakespeare… but surely Eliot could have done better! After all, there’s a lovely rhythm to the spiels of The Tempters – the Fourth Tempter, in particular, was fantastic with his goads to martyrdom.
In terms of cast, “solid” is an appropriate description; the only one to have me checking the programme was Joanna Patrick in the chorus… I get the feeling that she’s destined for greater things. Other than that, though, this felt pretty pedestrian, and served only to bring my attention to the fact that TS Eliot is not in the same league as a playwright as he is a poet.