REVIEW: The Sanctuary Lamp
The Sanctuary Lamp, Arcola Theatre, Dalston The flexibility of Dalston s Arcola Theatre really shines through in the latest production to play out between its walls. This time the theatre, a low-ceilinged hangar, has been transformed into an entire church
The Sanctuary Lamp, Arcola Theatre, Dalston
The flexibility of Dalston's Arcola Theatre really shines through in the latest production to play out between its walls. This time the theatre, a low-ceilinged hangar, has been transformed into an entire church nave. It is a striking introduction to the gloomy goings-on that will follow.
'The Sanctuary Lamp' has been both written and directed by award-winning Irish playwright, Tom Murphy for this new performance of his 1975 play. It is a privilege to watch a play in the form intended by its author, and the purpose of the writing is clear as a result.
When it was first performed in the Seventies, 'The Sanctuary Lamp' caused outrage among the Catholic Church. Thirty-five years on, audiences are more open to criticism of institutional religion - whether a subscriber or not.
You may also want to watch:
Even so, elements of the play still hold the ability to stir. Looking on as a man swigs from a wine bottle and puffs cigarette smoke from the back of a pew still makes an impact. And lifting a pulpit from its foundations still somehow crosses the line.
Three lost souls find sanctuary in a church. Robert O'Mahoney plays ranting old cuckold, Harry - a former circus strongman whose sanity slipped away with his strength.
- 1 Murder arrest after woman stabbed to death in Whitechapel this morning
- 2 Fury as family homes vanish when Isle of Dogs landlord converts to bedsits
- 3 Man sentenced after teenage boy groomed on Snapchat to sell heroin
- 4 Two men arrested after police officers assaulted in Limehouse rave
- 5 Leyton Orient announce partnership with Hartford Athletic
- 6 Covid vaccination hub opening in Westfield next week
- 7 Police hunt after stabbing in Cable Street: One man hurt
- 8 Teenager found dead in Victoria Park
- 9 Lovely Day for Aldgate School picked to sing on Billy Ocean's new single
- 10 Ethnic communities not taking up Covid jabs, Tower Hamlets Mayor warns
Kate Brennan is haunting as the archetypal waif, Maudie, who floats, wide-eyed, through the shadows. Both are cold and inaccessible on their own, but together they bring life and light to the stage.
The driving force behind plot and character comes from leather-clad letch Francisco, played by Declan Conlon. Conlon injects vigour into the lengthy monologues, which otherwise begin to drag a little, and spits out Murphy's script like it is Shakespeare. The poetry in the writing suddenly becomes more apparent, punctuated by vocalisations here and there - such as "Hmm?" and "You know?" - which succeed in creating an amusing rhythm as well as irritation.
Stage and seating are separated by pillars, serving as church columns as well as holding up the ceiling. And in a play full of symbols, these pillars are important.
They both obstruct the audience's view and add to the set's success. The play is funny and bleak, hopeful and apocalyptic, enlightening and mysterious. But getting in isn't easy.