Heresy At The Tabard Theatre

Penny Flood finds plenty of food for thought


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Heresy at The Tabard takes a look at the ethical debate between God, man, freewill and morality. It’s inspired by Dostoevsky’s ‘Brothers Karamazov’, a philosophical novel set in 19th century Russia. Here the action’s been transferred to sixteenth century Spain at the height of The Inquisition. The Church is hunting down and burning heretics including an obscure group of Christians called Cathars.

Once, Catholics and Cathars rubbed along nicely as part of the community. These characters, the beautiful Rosario (Rachel Maya), her brother Pedro (Matt Ian Kelly), the mysterious Carlos (Mark Lisseman), Domingo (Peter Saracen), his mother Dona Isabella (Rosemary Macvie) and  Don Felipe of Granada (Nick Simons) have known each other all their lives. They went to school together, grew up together, shared teenage crushes, and had illicit liaisons. Surprisingly, the gentle, misfit Domingo became a monk much to the disappointment of his loving mother who had hopes of him marrying Rosario, the object of his teenage crush.  

But the peaceful life changes when Domingo is promoted to Inquisitor General, forcing him to rethink his attitude to the people he’s known all is life (who happen to be Cathars), including his former teacher and mentor, the old, blind, but mentally sharp Don Felipe. The dialogue between Domingo and Felipe is terrific as the two men grapple with deep philosophical debates on the spiritual and moral struggles concerning faith, doubt and reason against the background of Catholic dogma, and the whims of The Inquisition.

But, in spite of his high aims and ambitions, Domingo is only human and he has doubts, so we watch him implode as the certainties he’s given his life to, are not so certain anymore.  Denied the free will to do what he knows he should do, he is forced into a corner which can only destroy him. Saracen gives a terrific performance here. 

As he agonises and refuses to listen to the reason of his friends, his confusion is made worse by the arrival of Jesus and two of his disciples. Why did he have to come here he moans, surely they have more need of him in Northern Europe where the Catholic Church doesn’t have such a tight hold.

Although the symbolism is laid on a bit thick when Jesus returns on Easter Sunday, it’s a clever, sharply written and fabulously acted work, but at almost two and a half hours, it’s too long.  Writer Tilo Ulbricht is so keen to ensure that the audience knows every little detail of the history in which this is set along with full details of Catholic dogma, so that at times it comes across more as a lecture, especially in the first act which cries out for less talk and more action.  The basic story and the intertwined relationships aren’t difficult to grasp and it doesn’t need to be so wordy.

But if you like a good philosophical argument that leaves you with plenty of food for thought and perhaps new ideas on the meaning of life, this could be the play for you.

Tickets: £16 (concessions)/£14

The Tabard Theatre, March 4th- 22 nd (Tue-Sat) 7:30 p.m
Box Office

March 7, 2014

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