Believe

Matthew Hurt
New End Theatre
(2008)

Linda Marlowe in Believe

Four female characters, immortalised by an act of perceived heroism in either the Old Testament or the Apocrypha, are the subjects of this play. Hurt attempts to mould them in 21st century familiar socio-psychological characteristics.

Linda Marlowe, in this solo performance directed by Gavin Marshall, performs Rahab the harlot from the book of Joshua, the beautiful Bathsheba from II Samuel, Judith the much admired heroine who inspired Caravaggio, Michelangelo and Klimt, to name but a few great artists, and, last but not least, Hannah the martyr whose story originates from II Maccabees.

Marshall introduces the audience to modern Israel with a bang.

The stage is littered with bits of clothing, which are gathered by Marlowe and put together to show a male evening suite with a silky burgundy red scarf. She takes off her black coat and carefully places these items in it and then it is all pushed to a corner. Her action is accompanied by a voice-over from a radio, reporting a suicide bomb attack, with the sounds of a siren. Welcome to the region where wars and tales of heroism inspire artists and writes.

In a sub-prelude to the presentation of the characters, Marlowe asks, "Who am I?"

The first biblical "heroine" is the harlot from Jericho, Rahab. She helped the two Israelite spies and, in return, requested them to rescue her and her family. Hurt centres on the events leading to Rahab's becoming a whore. Marlowe presents the character in a cockney accent akin to Eliza Doolittle's. She vividly describes how she was raped by an uncle at the age of ten and how then reality drove her into the oldest profession. The Rahab we have is one with a past, a feisty woman who devours respect when she encounters it from the two Israelite spies. Hurt's Rahab helps the Israelite spies because they looked at her "with large innocent eyes"; they spoke to her as an individual and not a woman that they intended to sexually exploit. She is an attractive harlot with whom one can sympathise.

The sound of the explosion and blackout transport us to another character. This one has a posh accent and is seduced and made love to on a heavy office desk. She is taken from the second book of Samuel and is the beautiful Bathsheba, Uriah's wife, who the boss just had to have. David, the seducer, impregnates the desirable woman and then must resort to resolving the problem without compromising the subject of his lust. That required some planning as the conventional mode of covering his tracks proved impossible.

There is an enormous potential for humour and wit in these two characters. Unfortunately there is none of it here. Marlowe's ability to switch from a whore to a wife of a senior military man is rather impressive. Her demeanour and accents transport the audience to the extreme ends of the social ladder of two women who, in different ways, are sexually exploited. Yet neither character stimulated interest.

The third female is the daring and beautiful widow Judith. Marlowe unfolds the tale of the events that led her to the heroic act of beheading the enemy's general, Holophernes, through seven steps reinforced in flamenco dance-steps. It was contrived and uninspiring.

The last character is that of Hannah. This is a moving story of the ultimate sacrifice in the face of a ruthless attempt at forced conversion. The delivery by Marlowe was passionate and moving.

The 60 minute performance introduced familiar characters in a brash and modern idiom, yet it fails to generate in them the requisite energy to inspire sympathy or even the mere sense of better familiarity. There is more life to each of them in the original sources and unfortunately Hurt has failed to breathe new life into them.

Reviewer: Rivka Jacobson