Occasionally, I will have conversations with friends where we discuss the deeper meaning of life, religion and God and I do have an interest in the early Church and the passage from the simple life of Jesus to the complex and immensely rich Christian organisations we see today. Where am I going with this, you may ask, well this rather convoluted opening leads me nicely onto a new play about the life of a major figure in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. “Inigo” by Jonathan Moore receiving its world premiere at the White Bear Theatre is the story of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, from which incidentally the current Pope comes.
Not that there is anything particularly saint-like about Inigo (Fayez Baksh) the youngest of 13 children in a minor aristocratic family from the Basque region of Spain when we first meet him. Like many a young man of his time his interests are drinking, gambling, fighting and women – not necessarily in that order. However, unlike other members of his family, Inigo has a vainglorious desire for fame brought on by his early reading of adventures such as ‘El Cid#’, the ‘Knights of Camelot’, etc. In pursuit of this wish to be a famous knight, Inigo joined the army at 17 where he achieved a reputation as, not to mince words, a bit of a show off as he strutted about “with his cape slinging open to reveal his tight-fitting hose and boots; a sword and dagger at his waist.” Despite these characteristics, Inigo was a devout Roman Catholic, and after being severely wounded at the battle of Pamplona, he convalesced at home where he read various religious texts and had an epiphany. Throwing aside his former life, Inigo focused on his devotion to God with the same level of enthusiasm he previously showed to La Vida Loca.
bandoning his family, he set off to practice his simple, pious way of living in various university towns in Spain. Initially seen as a threat to Catholicism, Inigo came under the spotlight of the inquisition, not once but seven times during his time in Spain and France. Each time, he was cleared as the Inquisitors realised his devotion to the Holy Mother Church and the supreme authority of the Pope was genuine and he was not some sort of heretical radical, or even worse, a Lutheran intent on bringing the church down.
Eventually, Inigo and his brethren moved to Rome in the hope of securing Papal approval for their way of life – Inigo never wanted to found an ‘order’ of the church. But in Rome, he found that things were different and Inigo came up against the Curia – administrators of the Church whose devotion to God was not always as sincere as their own devotion to power – who started a whispering campaign against him and his followers leading to Inigo himself demanding a final investigation by the Inquisition to either condemn him or clear his name forever.
Writer/Director Jonathan Moore has done a marvellous job in turning the real-life story of Inigo into a piece of impressive theatre writing in a contemporary language that will appeal to everyone. There is an awful lot to get in as we follow Inigo’s journey from playboy to Jesuit. Along the way, the audience encounters the same issues Inigo himself faced. Such as the scheming of people in authority scared about the ‘new kid on the block’ who might affect their status quo with his radical ideas. More importantly we, like Inigo come to realise that in order for a movement to survive, compromises have to be made. Whether it be addressing senior people by their title rather than calling everyone brother or sitting down to write a constitution formalising the organisation, or having to take unwanted titles such as “Superior General” in order to visibly establish your position, these things have to be done. In this way “Inigo” is not only an historical story but a very contemporary one.
With the exception of Fayez, the rest of the cast (Timothy Block, Matthew Howell, Tom Kay, Paul Thomas Lyons, Tom Durant Pritchard, Hilary Tones and Elle Van Knoll) take on multiple roles throughout the show and managed the task superbly. However, Fayez was a wonder making the transformation from callow self-obsessed youth to elder statesman of the church in true style. My favourite scene of the evening was the final one where, alone on the stage, Inigo has his final conversation with God, a moving piece of writing and acting to say the least.
I‘m going to give a special mention to Bret Young – in charge of combat – at this point. Anyone that can get six full grown men and two women fighting with swords and knives on a pretty small stage without them or the audience getting hurt is doing a pretty impressive job and when you add the very realistic looking beatings Inigo took at times I have to say that Bret really delivered something special.
To sum up, this is a really impressive play about a complex human undergoing a major transformation in his life and wanting to pass it on to the world. It is entertaining, enlightening and wonderfully delivered by a fine cast.
Review by Terry Eastham
16th Century Europe – Christianity is at war, counter-reformation follows reformation and the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola enters Rome as a radical reformer. Inigo follows the life of the Basque born nobleman and Christian revolutionary from ambitious hot-headed, street fighting hedonist with a lust for sensual pleasure and earthly glory to his conversion and subsequent adherence to the values of poverty, chastity, and obedience. It charts the founding of his religious order The Companions of Jesus (known pejoratively as The Jesuits) which set him and the movement on the collision course with church and establishment which has lasted through to the present day. This is a story of a man who stops at nothing in the fight for what he believes is right. It is also a contemporary allegory, a story of our times about anyone who demands change and meets with the savage opposition of those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
The White Bear Theatre presents INIGO
Written and directed by Jonathan Moore
3rd to 28th February 2015
WHITE BEAR THEATRE
138 Kennington Park Rd
London, SE11 4DJ
Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm
Sunday matinees 4pm
Box office 0844 8700 88
Saturday 7th February 2015