Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Review - In Lambeth, Southwark Playhouse


AN imaginary meeting between poet and philosopher William Blake, his wife Catherine and the revolutionary Thomas Paine is the subject of a play now on at the Southwark Playhouse.
Written by Sam Shepherd, In Lambeth opens to what looks like a scene from the Bible with Adam and Eve, naked and communing with angels.
However, the people in this serene tableau are actually the Blakes, stark naked and up a tree in their garden. William is also playing a pipe and Catherine reading from Milton's Paradise Lost.
Very soon their oasis of calm and tranquillity is shattered with the arrival of Thomas Paine who climbs over the wall to their Lambeth garden.
He is seeking sanctuary from the anti republican mobs who patrolled the streets of London during the 1790s.
Without asking why he's in their garden, the Blakes encourage him to stay to dinner and the two men engage in debate about inequality whilst sharing rabbit pie.
Said debate is both interesting and intellectually stimulating. Both agree on the need to achieve equality but they come from different starting points - William believes in the power of language and Thomas says it requires political action.
The irony is of course that neither include Catherine in the discussion, despite the fact she sits there, admits she cannot read and suggests that girls should be educated.
The arguments are well made and the debate they have is lively and at times heated and it is up to Catherine to calm things down when sparks fly.
The 90-minute play is beautifully set and well acted with great performances from Tom Mothersdale as William, Christopher Hunter as Thomas and Melody Grove as Catherine who brings a tenderness and thoughtfulness to the role. She may not have many lines but she is clearly an intelligent woman.

In Lambeth is on at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway until August 2. Tickets from £16. Visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk or call the box office on 020 7407 0234.

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