Saturday, 24 March, 2001

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s season of contemporary views of England’s history, ‘This Other Eden’, continues at the Barbican Pit with Nick Stafford’s new play “Luminosity”.

This is an interesting drama that takes place in 1799, 1899 and the present day. It concerns the rich Mercer family who manage their business on an ethical basis. However, it has not always been this way. Their fortune has been gathered by murder, exploitation and the slave trade. This play explores the moral responsibility of the present family, and also race and identity, particularly for their black adopted daughter.

I found this play enthralling as it poses the ethical question of whether our ancestor’s behaviour should have any effect on the way we behave in the present day. Should one try to make amend for one’s family who have behaved in an awful way in the past? Or should one put it all behind us and look to the future? It also poses the question of why we are so wrapped up on wanting to find out about our families past. Does it matter? Surely it’s the future that counts, after all you cannot change the past! But, some may argue that by knowing the past you can learn from it.

Nick Stafford has written a play that is not at all heavy, but has instead written a simple story that makes us ponder our moral responsibility.

Beautifully directed with zest by Gemma Bodinetz, the cast produce a solid performance on the bare Barbican Pit stage.

The show has not been received well by most of the popular press... NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says the play is a “drab African Odyssey” and goes on to describe it as a “medium-cool play". BRIAN LOGAN for TIME OUT says, “ This play of ideas keeps the mind keenly engaged.” CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH describes the production as “more a lecture than a play”. He goes on to say, “One leaves this play wishing that Stafford would find the courage to write from his heart, rather than from his bilge-filled head.” IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES describes it as a ”confusing and enervating drama”. He goes on to say, “A lacklustre lecture masquerading as drama.” PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE says, "Although it is generally interesting and occasionally enlightening, its short scenes signally fail to induce any dramatic tension."

Lasting 1 hour and 45 minutes without an interval, this is an appealing play that I found most enjoyable.

(Darren Dalglish)

(Production Photos by Conrad Blakemore)

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