Theatre review: Pentecost at Pentameters, NW8

Brian Linden Marc Carver and Hope Love in Pentecost

Brian Linden Marc Carver and Hope Love in Pentecost - Credit: Archant

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, David Edgar’s 1990s Iron Curtain Trilogy is staged together for the first time, offering wry, nuanced dramatisation of political and social upheaval.

Middle play Pentecost addresses post-Soviet reconstruction and the complexity of heritage via an insightful art detective thriller.

In a small Eastern European country, curator Gabriella Pecs (Hope Hynes Love) shares a potentially revolutionary find with English academic Oliver Davenport (Marc Carver): a church fresco that could pre-date Giotto and thus reveal a new starting point for the Renaissance. If confirmed, it would rewrite history, but waspish American Leo Katz (Brian Linden) is determined to unpick their theory.

Edgar’s meaty, cerebral script asks big questions. Should such a discovery be completely restored? Or does the more recent work overlaying it, marks of bitter experience, have equal value? Competing factions furiously negotiate: duelling Catholic and Orthodox priests argue sanctity, while the cultural minister sees tourist goldmine and Pecs knows it could boost the self-esteem of her oft-occupied nation, now establishing an identity but besieged by Western hegemonisation.

In the less focused second half, debate segues into hostage crisis – a transition Jerome Davis’s otherwise solid production doesn’t quite land. Armed refugees demanding asylum share their grievances, the painting becoming metaphor for those buffeted by rival forces: the worth of art versus the price of life.

There are strong performances from the trio of academics, Tim X. Davis’s genial minister, Julie Oliver’s magistrate and Jeanine Frost’s agitator, finding the humanity in this play of ideas. ‘Pentecost’ refers to the Holy Spirit making the Apostles’ different languages universally comprehensible, and Edgar’s thoughtful exploration of multicultural fluidity and linguistic interpretation is almost Stoppardian. Pentecost is not just precious cultural artefact, but shrewd contemporary provocation.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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