For a show, A Prayer is very brief (this review is very brief for that reason); but for a prayer, A Prayer is uncomfortably lengthy. This communicant, known only as M. (Niall Bishop) – and nothing to do with James Bond – finds himself talking to a supreme being he doesn’t believe in. It’s been an interesting observation of mine for many years now that non-believers seem to invoke heavenly powers whenever something goes awry, with exclamations such as “Jesus Christ!” and “God Almighty!”. Those deities seem to be the first port of call, with a sort of faith, if you will, that comes across as strong as those who actively practise religion.
At least M. is immediately mindful of his own “Jesus Christ!” outburst – although he is, as we have established, praying. Or is he? M. isn’t sure himself, and in a long (and somewhat amusing) preamble, he has no idea even of protocol or form of address. His hesitance leads to long silences, and I must admit my mind did start to wander, but at least the dithering was convincing, and I was never even close to nodding off. The fourth wall is breached early on, and it dawns on us in the unsuspecting audience that we’re not so much watching a show as being in it: and, with some awkwardness, we are He Who May Or May Not Exist.
Please don’t let that put you off! Once it gets into its stride, the play becomes quite meaningful and reflective. I struggled to begin with trying to figure out what the play was trying to achieve, covering so many subject areas fairly quickly in the first half, but it all turned out to be, in hindsight, a decent set-up for what was to follow.
The dialogue (or should that be ‘monologue’?) becomes increasingly fluid, and it’s refreshing not to come across someone who angrily yells at the Almighty, blaming Him for everything. M. remains unfailingly (and, for me, enviously) courteous throughout, and so the strength of his line of argument is never dimmed by ranting and raving. A unique play, this production is a thoughtful and interesting approach to grappling with the issues of life that science alone does not sufficiently answer.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Centred around ideas of existence and reality, A Prayer tracks an intimate exchange between a man and God, and challenges its audience to find its own interpretation of belief in an increasingly isolated society:
A Prayer will run at the Hen & Chickens Theatre bar for a two week run between Tuesday 27th October and Saturday 7th November, 2015.