In Lambeth at Southwark Playhouse
With the American and French revolutions serving as a backdrop to this philosophical, political and religious play, Jack Shepherd’s In Lambeth is a triumph in creativity and originality. The entire production takes place in William Blake’s wild and untamed garden, foretelling the sprouting and growth of the forthcoming ideas of revolution and rebellion of Thomas Paine as he stumbles upon Blake and his wife Catherine naked up a tree reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Tom Mothersdale excellently portrays Blake as an absent-minded genius, a poet with a tortured soul who is unable to understand the injustice of the society in which he lives, resulting in a certain degree of emotional instability. Catherine (Melody Grove) and Paine (Christopher Hunter) serve to balance Blake’s impulsiveness with their rationality, despite Catherine desiring to keep up with her husband’s flightiness. Her absence through much of the dialogue between Paine and Blake represents that of the average citizen; the irony is clear as the philosopher and the poet talk about “the people” as the audience they would like to reach and yet do not involve Catherine in their discussions.
The conflict between intellectuals and the average citizen, represented by Catherine, explores the dichotomy of the tyranny of the state versus the tyranny of the majority, and questions the idealism of “tearing down the fabric of society” with minimum bloodshed. Shepherd has successfully created a production that will always maintain its relevance, as the themes of revolution and justice, desire and sexuality, will never lose their resonance with an audience.
In Lambeth questions the meaning of identity itself, delving into the psychology of revolutions and the fine line between insanity and genius, evoking introspection from us the audience, “the people”. Shepherd’s wonderfully intelligent production encourages one to be more aware of the society in which one lives – an invaluable and often forgotten lesson.
In Lambeth is at Southwark Playhouse until 2nd August 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.