Shining Lights - In the Shadow of the Cross
7th April 2004 at St Nicolas' Church.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Power in the passion
Shining Lights Theatre Company: In the Shadow of the Cross, at St Nicolas' Church, Newbury, on Wednesday, April 7
As the rector of St Nicolas' Church told us before the play started, the events of the first Easter have become so familiar to most of us that we hardly need to be reminded of them. However, each time we do take the time to reflect, and if this time is enhanced by some excellent theatre, the experience can be very powerful.
Watching this group of young actors re-telling the story, in their own everyday clothes, was very moving. The understated performances were full of sincerity and commitment, and the general lack of histrionics made the occasional outbursts from some characters even more telling.
The nature of the script meant that there wasn't much opportunity to develop relationships between characters, although it did give some of the actors the opportunity to play different parts, which they did well.
Telling the story from the very beginning, from before creation, with the rebellious Satan being expelled from heaven, gave a wonderful opportunity for sustained performances from Holly Sainsbury, as a gently persuasive and not unlikeable Satan (which is the whole point - if it was easy to resist people would, wouldn't they?) and Christopher Scott who was great as Archangel Michael, strong, focused, and uncompromisingly loyal.
The role of Jesus must be a challenge for any actor, but Peter Hartley-Kane took it in his stride, giving us a portrayal full of sincerity, emphasising the amazing truth that to his friends and followers Jesus was just an ordinary man, but one with an extraordinary edge.
The Last Supper, one of the few longer sections, was beautifully played by the ensemble, with a tangible sense of the realisation amongst the disciples of the divine nature of Jesus.
The intensity grew through Judas's betrayal, Jesus praying while his disciples slept, and the arrest, building up to a visually impressive climax with the whipping and the crucifixion, lit by torches and narrated with lines from the Gospels, and the cold, horrific facts of how crucifixion killed its victims.
Director Pete Watt inspired his actors to achieve something remarkable in this production. It was a privilege to be in the audience.