Subject To Angels

Monday, 01 March, 1999

The story is set in a guesthouse on the coast of rural Cornwall. One of the guests called Jerome is a strange character. He challenges the other guests to a game. He tells them he has six million pounds in his case. He asks just how far they would go to lay their hands on the money. Would they steal, cheat, lie, or murder? While everyone claims they would do none of these things, Jerome suddenly becomes unconscious. He has gun shot wounds and is dying. What will they do with the dying Jerome and more importantly his money?

This is a clever and sharp piece of writing from Robert Hamilton that has you guessing and gripped throughout the play. You ask yourself, who is Jerome? Is he a gangster or possibly Satan? While you are trying to work it out you discover it is not important. What becomes important is when the play looks piercingly into the souls of the other characters as greed slowly runs amok with their own personal ethics. This moralistic play certainly goes deep into the subconscious to reveal that many will be tempted to sell their soul to the devil for large amounts of money.

This thriller has some fine actors performing in it and half of them are founder members of Foghorn Theatre who play the roles specially written for them, which is probably why they are so convincing. It is very hard to choose one actor that stands out from the rest, as most are effective in their parts. However, if I had to pick one I would choose veteran actress Vari Falconer, who plays Barbara, the landlady. She has perfect timing and she beautifully delivers her lines. With perfect conviction she is able to turn her character from being an apparently nice, vulnerable Christian lady into a strong and determined woman.

There is a mystic performance from Craig Darby who plays the mysterious Jerome, although I could not help but think that with his facial features and because he was wearing a white suit he looked a lot like Jimmy Saville! (only British readers will know this!) Which was a little off putting, but then it is to his credit that his performance was powerful enough to convince me. There is an assured performance from Ken Sharrock as 'Harry' a travelling salesman who is not as happy and stable as one first thinks! Nicola Green is convincing as 'Fliss' Barbara's prostitute daughter, so too is Alison Ball playing ' Amanda', a struggling actress who cannot make up her mind on whether to continue acting or have a baby with film director 'Michael'. I think Johnnie Lynne-Pirkis who plays 'Michael' is miss-cast in this part. He has this smug look about him that somehow doesn't ring true for me and I was a little unconvinced by his performance. It always looked like he was acting the role rather than being the character. That is not to say he is not a good actor, after all he has been in many plays and TV, including Shakespeare. It is just that I don't think this role was suitable for him. Having said that it is still a competent performance and one probably would not have picked up on this miss-cast if it wasn't for the rest of the cast being exceptional with their respective characters. Lastly, the final cast member Ruth A Purser produces an extraordinary powerful and gripping performance at the end of the play as the mysterious 'Epiphany', who within her own character announces the return of Jerome.

It is said that there is no honour amongst thieves, yet the bazaar morality expressed by Jerome and later by Epiphany seems to have far more nobility and steadfastness, then the ethics of the other guests. The play expresses the view that the only thing that keeps us from murdering and stealing is not the strength of our own morality but our cowardice, which prevents us from committing ourselves wholeheartedly to our darker side. Is, as the play suggests, the only thing thwarting us from being ruled by greed our fear of being caught, or worse, being disapproved by others? I hope not!

Lasting 90 minutes without an interval 'Subject To Angels' is a fascinating morality play that is funny, scary, gripping and very thought provoking. I highly recommend you go and see it now!

(Darren Dalglish)

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