Each revolution has its fallguy

PUBLISHED: 11:25 24 October 2008 | UPDATED: 11:26 17 June 2010

IT was good to see a traditional play at Exeter Northcott last week, and one with a week's run rather than the fragmented programme of one and two nighters which have been so prominent in the current schedule.

IT was good to see a traditional play at Exeter Northcott last week, and one with a week's run rather than the fragmented programme of one and two nighters which have been so prominent in the current schedule.

A variety of offerings has something to commend it but the present situation is not meeting with universal approval and the changes may have gone too far.

The theatre's own company and homegrown productions are being sadly missed.

Is this new approach a result of Arts Council pressure and funding problems?

Liberty, this latest play, was brought to the Northcott by the Lifeblood Theatre Company, in association with Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London, where it has been running throughout the season alongside the Bard's plays.

By Glyn Maxwell, it is based on the 1912 novel Les Dieux ont Soif by Anatole France, a story of the French Revolution and, especially, the terror of its later years.

Although the first act moved rather slowly with quite a lot of preaching and debate, the play soon went to a tensely dramatic exploration of the revolutionary ideals and the way they affected ordinary people.

The young artist Evariste Gamelin (David Sturzaker) starts as a starry eyed follower of revolutionary ideas with the best intentions of liberty and equality for all men.

But he becomes swept up in the revolutionary fervour when he becomes a magistrate and is gradually transformed into one of the foremost prosecutors of the 'enemies' of the state, with little heed for justice.

Many of his friends: the former Duke Maurice Brotteaux (John Bett); the embroidress Elodie Blaise (Ellie Piercy); his former classmate Philippe Demry (Edward Macliam); the actress Rose Clébert (Kirsty Besterman); and the superior Louise Rochemrure (Belinda Lang); all become involved with the authorities with varying dire results.

Gamelin fails to take heed of the self devouring nature of the Revolution and the fate of his predecessors Danton, Robespierre and Marat, and is finally hauled up before the tribunal himself, to suffer the inevitable fate - the guillotine.

We are reminded that all revolutions, which start with the best intentions, proceed in a similar way: Russia, China, Zimbabwe, etc.

There was some impressive acting from all concerned, directed by Guy Retallack. Costumes were colourful and the incidental music apposite and attractive.

The additional use of the auditorium brought another dimension to the action.

In all, this was a very welcome visit to Exeter by a very professional company.

John Dalton

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