In any biographical work the decisions on what to leave in and what to cut are crucial. In a life as long and eventful as Ignatius of Loyola, Saint and founder of the Jesuit Order, this is a real challenge. Inigo (later Ignatius) is of noble birth, but the death of his mother means he is brought up by the wife of a blacksmith. His early years are distinctly unsaintly: whoring, fighting, drinking and killing. This is shown in a brilliantly inventive and effective movement section with masks, flashing daggers and dance. However, that energy and invention leaves the production once Inigo is left severely injured after battle. Bed bound and with only religious reading material to distract him; he rededicates his life to one of poverty and religious improvement. It was from here on that the script's reliance on worthy and lengthy monologues meant that it fell into the trap of telling not showing. Yet in those monologues were intriguing gems that could have made for a play that was engaging, surprising and more revealing of Loyola's life:
His greatest desire is to live a pure and Christian life as a missionary in Jerusalem. He travels to Jerusalem "walking barefoot through battlefields" but is not permitted to stay in Jerusalem. His journey home was equally eventful featuring ship wrecks and pirates. This whole story is told to us in 4 sentences in a monologue by Inigo. Surely that deserves more investigation? A man's struggle to achieve his dream to then find it shattered when he reaches his goal? And we could have had the excitement of disasters at sea as well. But sadly this is denied us. Then in the second half of this long 2 hour play, we meet Carafa, a Bishop, later a Cardinal and ultimately Pope, who is set up as an antagonist, but whom we only see in 3 scenes. Carafa reveals in one speech that despite his attempts to stifle Inigo, he sees in his enemy the zeal and passion that Carafa himself once had, but has now lost. This jealous, angry man, petty yet powerful, holy yet venal was well played by Paul Lyons. In fact, I felt cheated that the play we should have been seeing was one that featured much more of this human, failed character than the exhaustingly honest, holy and committed Inigo.
As demonstrated by Lyons all the actors in this production are highly commendable, they bring life and energy to a deadening script. Fayez Baksh as Inigo is burdened by the weight of the monologuing but carries it well and his physical transformation from angry youth to fierce prophet of simplicity is very well handled. Tom Durant-Pritchard brings some much needed light relief as the bluff Francisco Xavier whose best moment comes when he berates Loyola for ruining his life by making it better. Timothy Block's flinty gravitas and unexpected changes in pace in various senior characters was another actor who made the script sing on occasion. Tom Kay, Matthew Howells, Elle van Knoll and Hilary Tones complete this talented cast and all are worthy of seeking out in the future. Final mention must go to the costumes which are magnificent. The attention to detail that a small venue demands is there in abundance in Laura Cordrey's design. If only her well sharpened shears could be taken to the text.