Pros: Probably the most unusual Second World War story you’re ever likely to see.
Cons: The play is rather on the long side and some of the characters are hard to empathise with.
Lucifer Saved, with its themes of guilt, jealousy and demonic possession, mark it down as a play with grand themes and operatic emotions. However, like its Satanic namesake, it falls short of its lofty ambitions.
The play begins in the aftermath of Second World War, during Berlin’s reconstruction. Stationed with the British troops is army chaplain Lucian Willow and Lord Brook, his commanding officer. To begin with, Brook jokes with Willow about fraternising with women and getting married. However Brook later catches Willow kissing a nurse and admonishes him for dereliction of duties, only to then behave in the worst possible way imaginable himself.
Fast forward 20-odd years and we see that as well as having amnesia, Willow is wheelchair-bound and living on Lord Brook’s estate. Still looking like a young Mick Jagger (which I guess is in keeping with the 1960s setting and Jagger’s association with his song Sympathy For The Devil) Willow only has Brook’s daughter Sarah as his constant companion. However, the arrival of the circus proves to be a catalyst for Willow’s mobility, memory and change of personality…
The circus performers (played by Alison Halstead, Rupert Elford and Helen Aldrich) seemed like an unlikely addition to the story, but by the end of the play I found myself thinking that they were actually the best part. The energy and cohesiveness that they bring to the proceedings reminded me of the same qualities that Joel Grey brought to Cabaret.
Written by and starring Peter Oswald, Lucifer Saved shows flourishes of Oswald’s former vocation as Writer-in-Residence at Shakespeare’s Globe, with its mixture of prose with iambic pentameter. Another connection that Lucifer Saved has with Shakespeare, and in particular Macbeth, is the depiction of the supernatural, or indeed mental illness, depending on your point of view. Productions of Macbeth often emphasise the psychological and political aspects of the play, or embrace the supernatural aspects such as Banquo’s ghost, wholeheartedly. Lucifer Saved hints at both but doesn’t quite succeed either way.
One suspects from watching Lucifer Saved that Oswald was subconsciously influenced by ‘The Train Station’ episodes of Sapphire and Steel that dealt with the supernatural and the aftermath of war. However, the end result of this play has been more akin to the efforts of Bruce Dickinson’s vanity project, the film Chemical Wedding, than aShakespearean take on the supernatural.Anybody who has ever seen What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? won’t be surprised by how the play concludes.
Lucifer Saved has some interesting aspects, but if it had been produced by someone outside Oswald’s own theatrical company with a free rein and a critical eye, I suspect the end results would be more satisfactory all around. It’s an interesting experiment, but I felt it could be so much more.
Author: Peter Oswald
Director: Ray Shell
Producer: The Abyss Theatre Company
Lighting Designer: Ciarán Cunningham
Designer: Sarah Vigars
Music Producer: Paul Jenkins
Booking Until: 17th May 2014
Box Office: 08444 771 000
Booking Link: http://www.lionandunicorntheatre.com/lucifersaved.php