White Bear Theatre
7 February 2014
Reviewed by James Garden
Inigo is an ambitious biographical play, recounting the life of the saint who would one day be known throughout the Western Christian world as Ignatius of Loyola. It is a complicated story that writer and director Jonathan Moore nearly succeeds at telling. Unfortunately, aspects of the staging, script, and design let Inigo down.
Firstly, the production does not seem to recognise the size of the space it is playing in. The White Bear Theatre is a small, extremely intimate space—two rows of seats, with no real separation between audience and actors, but for the focus of the lighting. Some of the actors in the piece bark their lines, which, in a different venue, may work for this play. But, in this particular space, it distances the audience from the story in a dramatic way.
Secondly, there seems to be very little danger for Inigo once he undergoes his spiritual conversion. An audience, having never heard the story of St Ignatius before, is not given the chance to believe that this man is in any mortal danger from the Inquisition. It is a fact that he was tried and found innocent several times, but this is where dramatic storytelling must come in. If Inigo evades punishment so many times, there is little to make an audience believe that it won’t happen again and again.
Thirdly, and perhaps most damaging, is the sound design. Whilst individual sound effects make sense, and expressionistic recountings of Inigo’s childhood are quite effective, the music chosen does little to entice the audience into the world of the play. The production is sparse, which is a wise decision, but when all an audience has to navigate the story is lighting, costumes, and sound, using medieval chants up against a famous ambient track by Brian Eno, which has been featured in numerous iconic films including 28 Days Later, and Traffic, one is left with few clues to discern the basic “who/what/when/where/why?” of the work. This is a 16th century story and the production fails to transmit this key fact until one character speaks of Martin Luther and the Inquisitions.
Perhaps this is why Inigo seems at arm’s length from its own material. While trying to be clever, this production does not allow the work to breathe, or to speak for itself. Inigo could be brilliant, but in its present state, it simply is not.