BWW Review: EYAM, Shakespeare's Globe
Eyam, a place located in Derbyshire that has a law to its own. Isolated from the rest of the country, it has become a microcosm of anarchy, upheaval and deprivation. The villagers play by their own rules, shown quite clearly in the opening scenes with the hanging of their Reverend. Rallying together they tie a noose around his neck, watching as gravity does its job and crows of death circle above.
Let's just say it's not in anyone's top 10 places to visit anytime soon, however Reverend William Mompesson has found himself sent there by his king to 'save' the village. What he steps into instead is his worst nightmare, and something no one ever expected to happen. He faces a choice: stand by his duty to serve the church, or flee the town and be free of any possible harm.
So what's happening? It's The Plague; a villainous disease that's sweeping the area killing all in its path. Adele Thomas' production holds nothing back in the fact it really shows how gruesome this sickness. Bodies are paraded naked on the stage. They are pale, mutilated, marked and broken; they no longer look human. It's quite a harrowing sight but seems like a true reflection of how horrible this must have been.
When we're at the stage of the illness, the play is a really thrilling watch. However, it takes so long for us to get to this point, so we've had to sit for over an hour and watch people talk about basically nothing. The first part of the production really struggles to captivate attention, and you sit waiting for some kind of inciting incident.
There are a few plotlines that have been sandwiched in, yet they just fall under the generic dramatic tropes. Of course there are young lovers seeking their parents approval, and naturally there'll be the hints of a queer relationship surfacing. The point is, we've seen all this before and Matt Hartley hasn't really done enough to make it unique or infact that gripping.
As you would expect at The Globe Theatre, the performances are sublime. The cast are faultless in their mastery of the text, and work really hard to keep the story from dragging. It doesn't always work, but it's a solid attempt. This play was written for the quirky conditions of this space, yet it feels awkward here. It doesn't somewhat fit.
It's now my third visit to the globe, and for a space that proclaims to be a place for experimentation, it's really missed the mark on this occasion.
Eyam at Shakespeare's Globe until 13 October
Photo credit: Marc Brenner