Lucifer Saved is a new play written by Peter Oswald, whose writing credits include writer-in-residence at the Globe Theatre and work performed at the National Theatre, the Donmar Warehouse and on Broadway. In this production, Oswald also plays the protagonist Lucian Willow, an army chaplain who lost his memory in 1945. The play revolves around Lucian’s quest for a remembrance of things past, a quest that is complicated by Lucian’s former Commanding Officer, Lord Brook, who is looking after Lucian on his country estate in the 1960s. Brook has convinced his best friend Lucian that he is guilty of a shocking crime, and when a circus comes to the estate, all hell is let loose.
The play is at its most captivating in its use of language, with heavy use of verse and daring images evoked in words. The cast were all strong, with particularly light and enchanting performances from the three actors playing the circus (Helen Aldridge, Rupert Elford and Alison Halstead). The circus is central to the piece, offering a counter point to Lucian’s descent into an inner hell of loss of identity and the effects of this on his and Lord Brook’s families.
There is a vibrant energy to the production that makes it feel as if it wants to burst forth onto a much bigger stage than the charming but intimate space offered by the Lion and Unicorn Theatre. Similarly, the language of the play begs to be savoured over multiple viewings, and feels like it deserves a slower delivery with more room for the silent magic of the theatre to bubble forth. There is a raw edge to the production that I have a hard time explaining, and which is certainly engaging, but which also leaves me feeling confused as to where the heart of the production lies. I think I need to go and see it again! Recommended to the curious and to lovers of poetry.