Meet Me in the Ruins portrays five encounters, the artistic output of five local writers, taking place throughout time in Coventry Cathedral. Staged within the atmospheric ruins of the Cathedral itself, the consistency of setting, alongside frequent colloquial references, made for a performance that was Coventry through and through, whilst the array of situations and contexts highlighted the staggering diversity the city has to offer. Though some local references may have flown over the heads of those less local, the obvious championing of inclusivity undermined any alienation and the local comradery was heart-warming to behold.
The themes of inclusivity were further supported by the seating arrangements, with the audience perched conspiratorially on benches either side of what came to be used as the main stage. This setup allowed for an electrifying fusion between amphitheatre staging and intimacy, representative of the welcoming grandeur a place of worship aims to offer. The provision of blankets, large enough to share, engendered a cosy atmosphere that the threatening grey of the clouds did little to dispel. In fact, if anything, it added to the congenial effect as we sat huddled amidst the ruins, defying the characteristic British September weather.
The blankets added to the congenial effect as we sat huddled amidst the ruins, defying the characteristic British September weather
Performed by a four-man cast, utilising strong vocal talent, the scenes were interwoven by the common motif of ‘Abide with Me’, gorgeously harmonised and resonant in the ruinous open-air setting. This motif helped to elide what might have been considered a random selection of events, and provided a refreshing distraction to cleanse the palette of the audience eagerly awaiting the next episode.
The acting throughout was of an extremely high standard, though arguably some scenes provided for a greater depth of performance than others. One highlight was a scene involving the chance encounter of two local youths, and the painstaking decision of whether to abort an unplanned pregnancy. Throughout this section ran themes of race relations, class division and the burden of stereotype, whilst the dialogue ran with the fervour of heady, hormonal youth. The characterisation, blocking and writing was faultless and produced an engaging piece of theatre.
It is reassuring to see a reiteration of these values, staged in an arena once home to such devastation
It is perhaps because acts such as this were allowed to shine so bright, that others appeared comparatively less developed. A story that involved the homesick lust to return to one’s native land, strong enough to compromise even the bond between parent and child, seemed to perform an unbelievable U-turn at the last minute, suspending, and in some cases terminating, any belief held by the audience. Having said this, the characterisation and acting within the vignette remained robust and allowed for a thought-provoking contribution to the performance.
Meet Me in the Ruins is set to be the centrepiece of the Plumb Line Festival which, through a series of grassroots projects, aims to highlight the contribution made by the diocese to the city of Coventry for the past 100 years. With this gem of a performance as the jewel in its sceptre, the values of inclusivity, diversity and support are championed without the dogma and agenda that those uninvolved in religion, this writer included, are ready to be wary of. It is reassuring to see a reiteration of these values, staged in an arena once home to such devastation – the Cathedral was bombed during the Blitz – during such a divisive time globally and politically.
For further events in the Plumb Line Festival, visit https://www.plumb-line2018.co.uk.