Writer: Richard Bean
Director: Chris Honer
Reviewer: Tracey Lowe
Riding on the undeniable success of the Tony and Olivier award nominated ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, the Library Theatre Company have picked up on Bean’s other 2011 play, ‘The Heretic’. With slightly less accessible content than ‘Guvnors’ (the main focus of the play is global warming), and not a celebrity in sight to promote it, the play follows the trail of challenging pieces the Library Theatre company has previously performed.
Although this play focuses mainly around Dr. Diane Cassell, a Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics lecturer, this is definitely not a play about global environmental issues. ‘The Heretic’ is about Diane’s struggles with her job, her colleagues, her students and her daughter, Phoebe, and is a surprisingly accessible piece of theatre. There is not a second of the dialogue where the audience feels overwhelmed or bewildered. Diane and Phoebe’s interaction is realistic, human and very funny. Cate Hamer (Diane) and Sophie Robinson (Phoebe) have a very believable relationship, especially in the scenes where they are alone together.
Stuart Fox, who plays Diane’s line manager Professor Kevin Maloney, is perfect as the bumbling, overworked academic. Again, his chemistry with Hamer is fantastic; this ensemble cast is one of the best in recent memory, with no one actor clamouring for the spotlight. As soon as each cast member stepped on stage the audience immediately warmed to them.
Of course, the cast would be nowhere without Richard Bean’s biting, intelligent script. It takes real skill to make such a political matter a source of entertainment, and Bean achieves this with ease. Gone are the innuendos and slapstick humour of ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’; this is current, relatable satire. His lines for Ben Shotter, an undergraduate student, are particularly convincing. Full of “likes” and “innits”, Bean has written an extremely intelligent character with all the communication problems that come with lack of life experience.
The set, as we’ve come to expect with Library Theatre Productions, is extremely realistic. The first half is represented by a full scale academic’s office, with an extremely well-placed office door. This allows the audience to focus on the important stuff, such as character development and dialogue.
While maybe not as immediately appealing as the James Corden driven ‘Guvnors’, ‘The Heretic’ displays all the same comedic writing talents of Richard Bean. While the humour is more cerebral and subtle, it is no less impactful. This play is thoughtful, considered, and most importantly entertaining. Until the Library Theatre take up their new space, they are a more than welcome addition to the Lowry’s packed programme.