Throughout history, the devil has been blamed for much of mankind’s cruelty and depravity – but could there be more to this frightening creature? Is it possible he is merely a victim of circumstance? An unwilling pawn haunted by a reputation he neither created nor condones?
These are the questions raised by Adelaide’s Beating Heart Theatre Company in its debut performance, The History of the Devil. Written by Clive Barker, the play sees Lucifer put on trial after he requests re-entry into heaven.
Defended (and prosecuted) by humans and judged by a jury of invisible peers, Lucifer is forced to confront, and ultimately defend, his dark past as an array of witnesses (both living and dead) deliver their damning testimonies.
A black-clad Mark Drury delivers a powerhouse performance as the Devil, a character who is both charismatic and surprisingly fragile. Taking to the stage with the smug demeanour of a creature who believes he is infallible, the Devil becomes increasingly emotional as he passionately argues that he is little more than a victim; a naïve (albeit rebellious) child who was forced into a world for which he was neither emotionally nor mentally prepared. It’s an argument that, at times, is incredibly convincing.
Julian Jaensch plays Sam Kyle, the hapless lawyer plucked from his life to literally play the Devil’s advocate, while Bess Simper-Brown and Melissa Martins deliver strong performances as prosecutors Catharine Lamb and Jane Beck. Phoebe Shaw is brilliant as the demons Verrier and Lilith, while Sean Watters, Kathryn Palasis and Isabella Shaw shine as Jesus, Jack Easter and the demon Belial.
Many of the cast members take on multiple roles, flawlessly transitioning between personas, although there are times when they look cramped on the small corner stage.
Despite its religious content, this play is actually an analysis of ethics and human perception. It raises some interesting points, although I found the surprise ending a little confusing at first. A thought-provoking night out.
The History of the Devil is playing at the Directors Hotel in Gouger Street until March 3. It has been given an R18 rating.
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