Review: It's faith versus finance in powerful play in Leamington

Phil Reynolds as the Dean in Temple
Phil Reynolds as the Dean in Temple

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Temple at the Loft Theatre, Leamington

In October 2011 a group of protesters gathered outside St Paul's Cathedral to call for a fairer social and economic system. They were inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in the USA and their protest drew considerable media attention. But away from the camp and behind the closed doors of the Cathedral Chapter the church authorities had to wrestle with a difficult ethical dilemma: should they be on the side of the protesters, or should they serve their mission as the parish church to the City of London and to the thousands of paying visitors that bring in essential revenue?

The man at the centre of this crisis of conscience at the heart of the church was the Dean, whose pain and discomfort is sensitively evoked in a masterful performance by Phil Reynolds. Jeremy Haynes as the Bishop of London is an iron fist beneath the establishment’s velvet glove. Michael Barker gives a quixotic performance as the Canon Chancellor, who tweets his resignation in support of the protesters, but whose own conscience is called into question by the events. Elizabeth Morris provides welcome emotional contrast as the Dean’s slightly scatty PA. Kate Willis as the verger is mother to the boys, and worries about the appearance of the building and the flowers. Cathryn Bowler is the arch-villain of the piece, a media savvy lawyer for the City, who patronisingly brings cupcakes to her final showdown with the beleaguered clerics.

At one point in the play the Dean seeks reassurance in a passage from the Bible in which Jesus reminds the disciples how hard it is to follow his example. The difficulty of reconciling faith with finance is felt in every moment of this intelligent production of a play whose themes of justice and equality have not gone away.

* Temple runs until Saturday March 18. Call 800360 to book.