Writer: Howard Barker
Director: Robyn Winfield-Smith
Reviewer: Lizzie Kirkwood
‘Lot and His God’, staged at The Print Room for the first time in the UK, is a re-imagining of the bible story of Lot and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The story, as it appears in the Bible, concerns Lot and his family, who are visited by angels, warning them to leave the city of Sodom, as God is soon to destroy it and its inhabitants. In Barker’s adaptation, Lot and his wife are imagined as prim, tailored intellectuals and the angel appears as a filthy and volatile man in workman’s clothes. As the three central characters attempt to order coffee in the grey and dismal streets of Sodom, the sinful inhabitants are imagined as a young, surly waiter.
Fresh from controversy at The National Theatre over the production of ‘Scenes from an Execution’, which has seen some audience members walking out in, ‘Lot and His God’ succeeds where other Barker plays might come under criticism for their indulgence or deliberate opacity. This is due in part to Robyn Winfield-Smith’s direction; the characters rattle through the script with astonishing momentum and Hermione Gulliford, in her standout performance as Lot’s wife, fires off speeches with break-neck changes in pitch and tone to excellent comic effect. Winfield-Smith’s eye and ear for the comic is what gives this hour-long play the cunning and self-awareness that some of Barker’s other works lack.
Mark Tandy as the beleaguered Lot, forced to tolerate his wife’s systematic infidelity, delivers a solid performance, settled somewhere between unshakeable stoicism and pitiable exhaustion. And spare a thought for Vincent Enderby as the waiter, who takes on one of the most challenging performances I have seen onstage, required to writhe around the stage in silent agony, rendered deaf, blind and dumb by the angel.
At times the play is strangely reminiscent of Pinter’s ‘The Birthday Party’; a battle of delivery ensues, in which the subject or content of the characters’ speeches is less important than their capacity to keep talking. Peter Mumford’s lighting design excellently creates the dank and dingy world of Sodom, as lights intermittently fizz and crackle in and out of use.
A sensitive and energetic production of a witty and interesting play.