Gethsemane is the new upstairs play at the Belvoir, opening on Wednesday evening; Although the name refers to the garden where Jesus had a night of doubt. Thats not what this play is about, although, depending on the viewer, it could be.
The scene is modern day Britain, giving a fictional look at the insides of political influence in the Labour party in the UK. We follow the life of the party fund raiser, the prime minister, and the home secretary. It’s all fun to watch even if you don’t know a thing about UK politics, as the themes are universal. The play explores the interactions between various interests in a party. We see how politicians treat and are treated by their assistants, and how crucial a role they play, and what keeps everyone in the party motivated, what makes those in power ‘tick’, if you will, and what doubts, or personal crises cause characters to confront their own doubts, and to decide which path to take in the future.
The production at the Belvoir is the last production that Neil Amrfield is directing as the artistic director of the Belvoir theater. It’s well cast, with recognizable Australian faces from Australian film and theater sources. The actors relate really well to each other, and it’s believable. The interaction between the leads and their personal assistants is excellent, with a tiny bit of resentment, and really tough interaction, all designed to make you wonder who is leading out of the two. The biting comedy of the play comes at the expense of the politicians, and the doubts of the characters feels genuine.
I complained last time about a really distracting set, and thats not at all a problem here, with a plain concrete wall and two sofas that shift discreetly to change the space from room to room throughout the play. It’s perfect for the play itself, not distracting from the dialogue in question at all. I saw a preview of the show, and though things felt polished, the actors still stumbled once or twice over a few of the lines, but not in a distracting way. I think that by Wednesday they’ll be on the ball. It was fun to watch 9 actors stumbling around stage during the curtain call, though;
It’s a fun play to see, and tackles some interesting issues in democratic governments, but it’s not a world changing play; The Belvoir production is great, entertaining, and will probably a good night out. I’d rather go and see The Lonesome West though, if I was short on time.