We absolutely loved James McAvoy in The Ruling Class, so when we heard that King's Head Theatre was putting up a performance of another Peter Barnes Play, we were really excited.
The fact that this play was being put up in a Theatre within a pub, just made the whole concept more interesting. This was our first visit to a Theatre within a pub and it was only later that I learned that there are more such Pub Theatres in London.
The idea behind the play was simple:
St Eusebius is living as a hermit in the Egyptian desert, alone but for a tower of his own excrement, and the maggots that live in his festering flesh.
With nothing to do but self-flagellate, he is quite content surviving on olives, water and self-righteousness until a second hermit arrives with an order from God. And so begins a contest as to who is the holiest.
The script itself is that of an anarchic black comedy. Sadly the performances couldn't match up to the script. It is an extremely difficult script and what we saw where the early previews, so I do hope that the group can tighten the performance and bring in more of that manic energy needed to portray characters in a Peter Barnes play. Or maybe our expectations were too high for expecting a James McAvoy level of performance.
The sudden appearance of a third hermit at the end of the play just for the curtain call threw us all for a loop, none of us could figure out where he came in from and what his role was.
The themes of religious zealotry, violence in Gods name, clash of extreme egos are all very relevant and current, but somehow this performance didn't manage to strike the right note for us.
The King's Head Theatre is a tiny theatre with free seating. The front row is literally on the stage itself. And the advantage was that we got a close look at the make up which was excellent. Torn knees, covered in dust from the desert, it was all very well put together.