Writer and Director: Martin Foreman
Reviewer: Nichola Daunton
Martin Foreman’s Desire and Pursuit, a series of three monologues,explores faith, repressed sexuality and moral conflict within the Catholic Church and Thomas Mann’s Venice.
The first monologue is Angel, the story of a Catholic priest who is torn between his love of God and his love of men. Performed by Christopher Peacock, the monologue is delivered to an invisible other, in this case Michael, a local rent boy/archangel. While the monologue is generally well written by Foreman, the internal conflict of the priest is hashed and re-hashed far too many times and in quite an old fashioned style.
While Peacock is adept at showing us the inner workings of the priests mind as he turns the problem over and over, at times he tries too hard, making the action a little overwrought. Undecided as to whether Michael is his downfall or his salvation, the constant toing and froing becomes quite tiresome. Though the conflict between God and sex, is still a very current problem within the Catholic Church, particularly in light of the recent abuse scandals, the content of this monologue often feels a bit tired and old fashioned, though Peacock does his best to convey the priests genuine moral panic over the issue.
The second monologue, Now We Are Pope, also concerns the Catholic Church, though this time it is based on the life of a real man, Frederick Rolfe. In many ways the antithesis of the character in Angel, Rolfe was an English writer who was comfortable with his homosexuality but desperate to become a priest in the Catholic Church, a post that was denied to him despite his many attempts. An eccentric person, he spent his final years in Venice, which is where Foreman’s monologue is set.
Performed by Christopher Annus, Now We Are Pope is a difficult monologue to sit through. Foreman’s script and Annus’ performance do nothing to make Rolfe seem appealing and without any positive characteristics it is very hard to find a way into this monologue, especially if you are not aware of Rolfe’s history. Rambling in many parts, Rolfe spends much of the monologue complaining about all the people who have stolen his work, let him down or betrayed him. It’s very much how you can imagine Morrissey being in 20 years time, but without the charm and the caustic one-liners.
Widely described as an eccentric and argumentative man, Rolfe was obviously a difficult character, but by making him so utterly unlikeable, Foreman and Annus run the risk of losing their audience entirely.
Thomas Peacock returns for the final monologue, Tadzio Speaks… an interesting premise, which sees Thomas Mann’s character from Death In Venice finally given a voice. We join Tadzio as an old man, looking back on the Venetian experience that has haunted him for his whole life. Taking us back to Venice, we join him as he first becomes aware of Ashenbach’s gaze. The monologue does a good job of highlighting the push-me-pull-you affect that the attention of a stranger can have. Both attracted and scared by Ashenbach’s constant gaze, Tadzio finds himself trying to seek out the old man, while feeling suppressed by the presence of his family and particularly his sisters.
Peacock’s performance, aided by a beach set and a smart linen suit, does capture some of the repressive heat of Venice during a cholera outbreak, but again, the direction and Peacock’s performance are trying a little too hard and the monologue suffers because of this. The premise of Tadzio having been haunted by Ashenbach the whole of his life is also laid on a bit too thickly, and like the rest of the monologues, Tadzio Speaks… could greatly benefit from a little more subtlety and a little lesson repetition.