Pros: Some moments of fun lurk in the second act, which brighten the gloom and suffering that dominate the mood.
Cons: Slow, repetitive and heavy with some pretty thin characterisation.
‘Saints are boring.’ Hugh Grant’s George Wade in Two Weeks Notice wasn’t the first person to say it and he won’t be the last. There’s something frustrating about spending time with people who are ‘too perfect’, and project a ‘holier than thou’ attitude to those around them. This is the feeling of those around Inigo Loyola (the founder of the Jesuit movement and the title character of this play) and I’m afraid by the end of the play, my feeling as well.
Jonathan Moore’s Inigo at the newly decorated White Bear Theatre, which has lost much of its scruffy charm with its new lick of paint along sadly with its Tayto crisps, covers some barely trod ground. The play tells the life story of Inigo Loyola and his journey from playboy to pilgrim to hermit and finally to theologian and religious leader. The production seems to favour quantity over quality, covering Loyola’s whole journey at a plodding pace and populating the stage with a multitude of underdeveloped supporting characters.
It’s a shame that the play gives so little attention to the supporting cast, as there’s clearly some good talent amongst these actors. Tom Durant-Pritchard in particular shows some strong acting chops both in comic and quieter moments as one of Inigo’s boisterous university roommates. Indeed this ragtag group that form the first unofficial Jesuit group provide some much needed comic relief in the late stages of the play, though it’s a touch too little too late to save it.
The play offers some interesting philosophical points to reflect on in the comments on religion, spirituality and politics, but a stylistic a failure to weave ideas seamlessly into the dialogue and action turns scenes into lengthy lectures and keeps many potentially thought-provoking points from landing. The plot is equally forced out through some rather expositional dialogue used to cover the time jumps.
Although there are some really hammy moments from Fayez Baksh’s Inigo and some seriously dodgy accents, the performances are the play’s strong suit. Elle van Knoll may spend the show fighting off an American accent that you wish she’d just surrender to, but her turn as the nurturing sister-in-law Magdalena is impressive nevertheless, as is Hilary Tones’ Isobel, who seems to be the only character capable of seeing Inigo’s sanctimonious victimhood as annoying rather than praiseworthy.
There are some parts of the design that are worth a mention, with Laura Cordery doing a notable job with the costumes to create historical context. The sound design, on the otherhand, makes some odd choices, jumping between atmospheric and classical music to create a sense of time and place to some rather out-of-place rock anthems and spirituals.There was perhaps a larger point these seemingly odd song choices were trying to make but I have to say it passed me by.
In all, while the premise of Inigo was initially interesting enough the production ultimately fails to make the story of a five-century-old religious society relevant in the modern age. Perhaps niche history enthusiasts will find the show compelling, but the story and characters were a little thin for my taste, so if you’re keen for something meatier, I’d stick with the pies in the White Bear pub. They have some newly painted walls you can look at…
Author/Director: Jonathan Moore
Design: Laura Cordery
Sound and Lighting: Ben Cowens
Box Office: 020 7793 9193
Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/search/searchVenueDetails.asp?venue_id=35089
Booking Until: 28 February 2015