REVIEW - THREE STARS
COVERING the best part of 1,000 years of conflict in the Middle East is an ambitious task but that is what writer David Eldridge has done with his new play now on at the Globe.
Holy Warriors starts, and has as its main theme running throughout, the Crusades of the 12th century where the two mighty leaders of Richard the Lionheart and Saladin come to blows over their claims to the Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
Not only do we see the power struggle that emerges between these two great men but also the conflicts they have to deal with their family and followers. Saladin has his war-hungry son Al-Afadal to rein in and Richard his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who is desperate to join him in the Holy war.
It is an epic play, covering centuries and continents and to carry off this somewhat ambitious production there is a cast of 20 tackling more than 70 roles - including priests, presidents, kings, queens and fighters on both sides.
The first half concentrates on the build up to, and the end of, the Crusade and by the end of it Richard is dead.
The second starts with Richard in purgatory with his mother. He is shown some of the key events that happened in the region over the following 900 years - done at breakneck speed - before his mother shows him what could have happened were he to live again and make different choices.
With this alternative view of history we are left wondering if Richard had done things differently would the subsequent conflicts in the Middle East still have happened. And does the current conflict stem from his actions - so is it all his fault?
The second half is a bit disjointed and there are moments when it doesn't quite work - trying to cram 1,000 years of this incredibly complex and difficult history into two hours is a tall order.
That said, it is an interesting and entertaining piece of theatre and there are moments of great humour as well as sadness - particularly when Eleanor lists all the major atrocoties that have happened as a result including 9/11, the London bombings, the bombardment of Gaza and the recent kidnap and murder of the Israeli teenagers and the Palastinian boy.
The acting is also superb throughout with standout performances from John Hopkins as Richard and Alexander Siddig as Saladin.
Holy Warriors is at the Globe, Bankside until August 24. Tickets from £5. Visit www.shakespearesglobe.com or call the box office on 020 7401 9919