All the elements necessary for an entertaining and educative drama are there, but it’s really only in an imagined encounter between Oliver Ford Davies’ anguished Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Ely and the ghost of William Tyndale, who illegally translated the bible into accessible English (and was burnt at the stake for his heretic efforts) that the dialogue really crackles.
Elsewhere, there are effective touches as Edgar takes us from 1610 (with clerics and scholars arguing over the appropriate choice of “flock” or “fold”, “congregation” or “church”) back to 1536 as Stephen Boxer’s impassioned Tyndale faces execution in a Flanders cell, then forward fifty years to the smashing of ornamental stained glass windows in Yorkshire in 1586 before returning to its London starting point.
Gregory Doran’s production makes clear the potentially perilous changes in religious attitudes which accompanied each change in monarch, but it really helps to do your homework – or know your history – if you’re going to get the most out of this intelligent but ultimately rather worthy drama.
Until 21st July | £22.50- £47.50
Duchess, Catherine Street, WC2B 5LA
Tube | Covent Garden/ Charing Cross