Racing Demon – David Hare
Theatre Royal Bath
Jonathan Church hot foot from the triumphs of Chichester launches his directing debut of the Theatre Royal Summer Season with Racing Demon and if this production of David Hare’s stunning examination of an institution in crisis is anything to go by, Bath is in for an absolute treat this summer.
Racing Demon is an intriguing piece of theatre, first performed in 1990 unashamedly stripping bare the crisis at the heart of the Church of England; it now feels much bigger than this. It could be any national institution experiencing a turning point and this metaphor will not be missed in the current climate. Whilst it forms part of Hare’s lauded trilogy of Murmuring Judges and The Absence of War, Racing Demon is a gripping piece of drama in its own right.
Here we find four clergymen who seek to make sense of their mission in inner-city London whilst facing their own personal crises. The excellent cast features David Haig (Lionel Espy,) a cleric whose faith is wavering as his parishioners dwindle; there’s tabloid-hounded gay vicar Harry Henderson (Ian Gelder;) and ‘Streaky’ Bacon (Sam Alexander), a genial easy going reverend with a taste for tequila. Into this mix arrives Tony Ferris (Paapa Esseidu) a fiery young curate who chooses God over his girlfriend and blindly driven by a fine combination of youth and arrogance creating a perfect storm.
The brilliant script explores all points of view, everyone in their own way is “right” the conflict of idealism and reality is brutal without judgement or comment.
It is unsurprising this play has won so many accolades, the sharp direction from Church ensures the pace never falters; the showdown between the Bishop of Southwark (Anthony Calf) and Lionel (Haig) is a remarkable moment which rightly sends this production on a very safe onward journey to the West End.
**** – 4 Stars