Justin Butcher’s performance as the devil is simply outstanding. The physical theatre elements of his acting are incredibly fluent and well-devised to match perfectly with the rhythm of the spoken word. His performance as a demagogue could not be more convincing. Even though The Devil’s Passion is, objectively speaking, a very long play, the two hours pass in the blink of an eye as he hypnotises the audience with skilled speeches and monologues, underlined with sound effects that are as close to cinematic as theatre can get.
The lyrics of the play are a pleasure to listen to. While not being overly poetic, the rhythm of the words mixed with the occasional rhyme make the play not just the retelling of a plot, but a very artful piece of theatre that surely would deserve its place in the world of literature as well. It shows that Butcher is not just an actor, but also a published writer.
This Easter play could not have a more ideal setting than The Crypt On The Green – the literal crypt of an historical church at the heart of London. The height and shape of the ceiling carry the acoustics through the whole room. This gives Butcher an even more devil like appearance and enhances the skilled speeches. Paired with the light effects, some scenes are just godly. The play with light and shade is used well in order to create religious key moments of the passion.
The costume is a neat suit, just as the devil is often displayed in. While it does feel like a cliché, it is also simply an additional prop to underline the intended sense of superiority of the devil. Besides, considering that the plot of the play is a more than well-known two-thousand-year-old story, some cliché should be allowed.
However, that should not distract from the fact that the story-telling itself is deeply humane with no stereotypical or flat characters to be found.
This is the right play to enjoy during the Easter period. It sheds a new perspective on a well-known story. A more sinister point of view on events is taken without changing any part of the biblical story, however, the plot does not feel repetitive or predictable. The Devil’s Passion is utterly original and thought through in every way. If five stars wasn’t the upper end of the bar, this performance would get even more!