I wasn't sure if I should call this a "not-review" but editor Edward Kemp presents it as an attempt to properly stage extracts from the Bible so I'm going to call it theatre, even if it is a bit borderline. This being the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, many London theatres are marking the occasion. So many responses to the book in fact that I'm happily ignoring all of them, including, for the most part, the National's effort, in which Kemp has selected and edited 12 extracts, and various actors and directors have been employed to present readings of them. Despite some exciting names being announced I still wasn't tempted, except for the final selection, Simon Russell Beale giving a solo (most of the extracts have a small group of actors sharing the work) reading of the most cracktastic book, Revelation
. I knew Beale could at least be relied upon to give the demented pronouncements some gusto. Bob Crowley has provided a simple set that essentially recreates the poster image of a tree in long grass, although a bare stage would have been as effective as it is essentially a reading with SRB at a perspex podium (with a glass of water he didn't touch in the full 70 minutes, how does his mouth not go dry?) and the odd sound effect - actually both cjg1
and I were slightly baffled by the trumpets of doom which sound at seemingly random points, not necessarily when indicated in the text. My main point of interest in the performance (this one's directed by James Dacre) was how SRB read the more unpleasant curses as if horrified, slightly out of control of what he was having to say. For the book itself, I mainly noticed that the Whore of Babylon must have a MASSIVE forehead, given the paragraphs of text that are supposedly written on it. And the book's status as a political tract against the Roman Empire is most obvious in the description of Pestilence (of Four Horsemen fame) which sounds like a satire of a very specific tax. Nearly two millennia on, most of the other coded references are more obscure unless, I suppose, you're an expert in the time. Christopher wasn't convinced that Revelation was a particularly good choice of book to put on stage in this way, given it's basically mental and not one of the more storyline-heavy books - Kemp's note on the free info sheet suggests it's the KJB's language that was the main factor in which books to stage, those that are particularly beautifully written or whose phraseology has entered the language were more likely to make the cut. Given the flawed premise he agreed that you couldn't have had a better reader for it though, and was excited when I reminded him that SRB's Lear is still on the cards for 2013.The King James Bible
is in repertory until the 6th of November at the National Theatre's Lyttelton; Revelation
is next performed on the 6th of November.