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The Heresy of Love: A gripping and compelling drama

| Theatre | 10/08/2015

The Heresy of Love. The Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.
The Heresy of Love. The Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

This was my first visit to the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, and what an experience it was. The Globe Theatre is dedicated to the exploration of Shakespeare’s work, and play-writers from his period. The remarkable aspect of the Globe Theatre, is how they have managed to employ the methods and practises of theatre, so commonly associated with the Shakespearean period, and transplanted them so elegantly into modern London.

The Heresy of Love is a gripping drama, and an enthralling watch from beginning to end. Helen Edmundson’s play first premiered at the RSC in Stratford three years ago. Its transfer to the Globe Theatre, three years on, is not a revival which is simply surviving – The Heresy of Love is truly thriving. The story of a seventeenth –century nun may be a hard sell for London theatre-goers, but the story of Sister Juana is remarkable; the production, directed by John Dove, provides a thrilling narrative, in what can only be described as an engrossing evening of pure first-class theatre.

The story revolves around Sister Juana, a truly controversial figure in her day. She’s a great writer, a great poet, and a real beauty –the only problem was that she was a nun in seventeenth-century Mexico. With the arrival of Archbishop Aguiar Y Sejas, there was to be a crackdown on all irreligious activity, and Juana’s literary talent was right at the top of his list. Edmundson’s dialogue is not only commendable, but is remarkable in the manner in which she was able to construct a gripping, emotional and dark drama around the central figure of Juana. Though there are a number of dramas that occur off-stage, such as the ceremonial burning of books by the priests, or the slow descent into madness of her niece Angelica; there is no question that Edmundson was correct in her judgement in making Juana, and her story the central pillar upon which The Heresy of Love unfolds.

Naomi Frederick (right) as Sister Juana and Sophia Nomvete as Juanita (left).

Naomi Frederick (right) as Sister Juana and Sophia Nomvete as Juanita (left).

Naomi Frederick who plays Juana does a stellar job in bringing out the emotion, determination, passion, kindness, fragility and strength of her character. Frederick is a remarkable actress able to naturally imbue her performance with great levels of emotional vigour. Anthony Howell delivers a chilling performance as Bishop Santa Cruz who plays a central role in the downfall of Juana. Gwyneth Keyworth provides wonderful support as the young Angelica, whilst Rhiannon Oliver as Sister Sebastiana is able through her performance to captivate not only our interests but command the stage and its unfolding drama. It was Sophia Nomvete as the wonderful Juanita who injects the production with its much needed dose of humour to combat the tragedies unfolding on-stage.

The Heresy of Love at the Globe Theatre is a gripping and compelling watch; it captivates both heart and mind through its juxtaposition of tragedy and comedy. The Heresy of Love is a fascinating and engaging production. It brings to the forefront one of this centuries greatest problem –religion –and is able to capture the religious rivalries underlying Spain’s occupation of Mexico. The Heresy of Love is unlike any other London theatre production, as this has the real meaning of life at its heart.

Written by Sandip Kana | @sandipkana

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