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‘Temple’ Review: A refreshing examination of the Church and the City

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Rating:

Back in October 2011 I was only 15, living in a small town in Wales, and not fully attuned to global political happenings – I’d therefore not given much thought to the clerical side of Occupy London. So the premise of Temple struck me as intriguing – how did the chapter of St Pauls address the Occupy movement, and why? This play is an imagined version of events on the morning of Friday 28th October, 2011, the day that St Pauls reopened after closing because of the protestors.

The play focuses on the Dean of St Pauls (played by Phil Reynolds), and his grappling with whether or not the Cathedral has made the right decision in choosing to reopen, worrying that his reputability had already been damaged enough by his decision to close St Pauls. The play touches on more than this, though – it asks how entwined the Church has become with the City of London, looking at the Church’s historical position both in society and within London.

While this might sound like a potentially dry premise for a piece of theatre, director Sue Moore did an excellent job of keeping the play constantly moving forwards. If ever you were starting to forget that Occupy London were meant to be off-stage, the sound of drumming and chanting would periodically waft its way onto the stage (much to the dismay of the Dean).

The play asks how entwined the Church has become with the City of London, looking at the Church’s historical position both in society and within London

Perhaps the only jarring moment of the play was when two young boys from the choir (aptly named Simon and Jude – Bible banter) cameo on-stage to sing to the Dean for a couple of minutes. Whilst there was a reason for this within the narrative of the play, it felt slightly disjointed from the rest of the narrative, and wasn’t entirely necessary in my opinion. However, the boys themselves (Will Parsons and Henry Taylor Lucas) were great in their roles, and I was really impressed by their singing abilities.

The best part of the play for me (as I’m a sucker for dialogic theatre) was the dialogue between the Dean, his PA (Elizabeth Morris) and the Canon Chancellor (Michael Barker). These conversations raised big questions about the role of the Church, and whether the very foundations of Christianity meant that St Pauls should be standing in solidarity with Occupy London, or supporting the injunction against the protesters favoured by the City. These conversations did a lot in highlighting the incredible subjectivity and division between people of the same faith, and the breadth of interpretation religion allows for – and yes, it’s an interesting thing to think about for non-believers, too.

Temple doesn’t overstate itself, whilst managing to make an impressive statement

Temple strikes a really great balance between addressing the wider issues of the Occupy movement (globally as well as in London), and recognising that its primary focus is on this particular morning, in this Church. It doesn’t overstate itself, whilst managing to make an impressive statement. It also made the Bishop of London talk about tweeting, which has to count for something, right?

There are a lot of reasons I’d recommend this play to you, so to summarise – if you’re interested in politics, protest, the Church, (the City of) London, religion, great acting, or just want to hear the Dean of St Pauls confusingly (and accidentally) quote Bob Marley, then get yourself down to the Loft Theatre before next Saturday.

‘Temple’ runs until Saturday 18th March, every night at 8pm except Monday. Tickets can be purchased from www.loft-theatre.co.uk, and there are discounted tickets for under-25s at £6 each for the Tuesday evening performance.

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