When the programme warns you that the performance contains “scenes of a disturbing nature”, you know you’re not going to be in for an easy ride. However, that didn’t seem to put off the 52 audience members – a (more than) full house – who attended Emily Holyoake’s adaptation of Sherryl Jordan’s “The Raging Quiet” at St David’s Church, Exeter on 27th November.
The start of the play introduces us to the two main protagonists in quick succession. Raver/Raven (Nicholas Limm) – deaf, but brutally maltreated as an idiot by everyone in the village except Father Brannan (Harry Boyd) enters half-naked, whipped and bloodied. Then as the performance and audience moves to Isake Isherwood’s house, set in the close surroundings of the chapel, we meet Marnie (Alice Chalk) forced into a marriage she didn’t want. When Isake (Dan Orton) dies falling from the roof, it sets the villagers against her as she befriends Raven. Only Father Brannan remains on good terms with her.
The plot moves rapidly and tracks the growing antagonism between the villagers and Marnie as she and Raven grow ever closer through the medium of sign language. Eventually, even her friend Father Brannan is powerless to resist the demands of the villagers, roused by Pierce (Jake Francis) Isake’s brother, that she should face a trial by ordeal for witchcraft.
Although the play is serious in intent, it is not without its lighter moments. The sermon delivered by Father Brannan to the villagers on the nature of Grace is one such example which I greatly enjoyed and should perhaps be delivered for real! The delight of Marnie and Raven as they learn how to communicate with each other through signing and dancing is another. But the dark forces of power and envy are never far away. The melodramatic villainy of Pierce as he tries to rob Marnie of her inheritance almost disguises that he has successfully used his position to incite the villagers into trying to lynch her for witchcraft.
The promenade nature of the performance worked well, with the more intimate scenes staged in the side chapel with the big set pieces being played out in the main body of the church. There were far too many great performances to single them all out individually, but huge credit needs to go to Abbi Davey for her direction of this production.
A challenging but hugely enjoyable evening.
***** – of course!!!