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The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: the Equilibrium of Good and Evil

Wednesday 20 November 2019, 23:10
By Alice Glover

A performance of Steve McAuliffe's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in Wincanton Town Hall, August 2019

Highly esteemed Wincanton-based poet and playwright Steve McAuliffe has always had a passion for the works of William Blake and his interpretation of the magical versus the mundane. Nowhere is this more evident than in his latest radio play, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in which he explores these opposing themes in such subversive detail.

Premiered in Wincanton Town Hall in August, the play centres around the ethereal world of a demon and three disgraced and jaded angels falling from the heavens and being forced to endure the apocalypse in, of all places, the earthly, unassuming location of a South London pub.

The concept of the play is based on life’s harmonious balance; the interaction between light and dark, yin and yang, good and evil. This is portrayed in the relationship between the characters Polymna and Maynard Foxx whose collaboration prevents the apocalypse.

Polymna (Pol) is an angel and a muse to romantic artists and poets. She is a romantic herself but is contemptuous of the current state of the world. She generally embodies light but is consumed by the recent death of a poet that she dearly loved.

Conversely, Foxx (a.k.a. Darkman) is the embodiment and seductive force of the Dark School of Fallen Angels. He, too, is a jaded figure responding to the most banal of episodes on earth, for which he himself was mostly culpable. However a tender side is revealed by Foxx in his romance with Pol as a direct response to the threat of the apocalypse, which saves the world from total annihilation.

The minimalist set with its simple white backdrop conveyed a certain austere purity in its depiction of the heavens. It also, in true Brechtian form, did not distract the audience’s focus from the content of the play.

Each actor’s individual performance was worthy of note but standouts include Hugo Purdue for his interpretation of the duplicitous Darkman. When preaching to his apprentices of the Dark School in his uncompromising Glaswegian accent, Foxx appears a malevolent figure parading around the stage and captivating his audience. The compère (played by Kate Kirkpatrick) notes the unease amongst the students and tries to diffuse the tension by laughing awkwardly and quickly trying to bring the conference to a close.

Another formidable performance was given by Joni de Winter as Pol who conveys a real sense of dilemma in her oblique position as a goodly soul in a destructive world.

At just fourteen, Finn Nias gave an equally commendable interpretation of Sam, a fifteen-year-old cockney urchin who is actually over three hundred years old. He is the spiritual embodiment of liberty together with shades of anarchy. Nias displayed a natural swagger throughout his performance together with an authentic cockney accent.

As an exemplary playwright, McAuliffe demonstrates his art and detailed study of human behaviour, and cleverly interweaves elements of comic relief throughout the whole production.

This production has caused quite a stir and so there will no doubt be further performances in the new year.


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