The Pilgrim's Progress
Searchlight Theatre Company and Regent's Theological College
John Bunyan's seminal work of Christian literature seems an unlikely story to be turned into a World War Two tale of derring do, but in fact it fits far better than one could have hoped.
In taking the tale of the aptly named Christian, his abandonment of his family and lifelong trudge along the path to spiritual enlightenment and the Golden City, then reforging it as a new story, Searchlight has created a far easier entry point to this landmark work for a modern audience.
In this adaptation, Christian is a military officer on a mission behind enemy lines in occupied France. His team is made up of a kindly older Chaplain and a gruff young sniper, and between them they must reach their objective. All the while, Christian is struggling to accept and truly follow his faith, beset by such obstacles as the depths of despair, the lure of pride and the vindictive demon Apollyon.
It's a clever allegorical adaptation, as such moments as Christian's capture in the castle of the giant despair is now rendered as his being imprisoned in a German fortress under a vicious Nazi Officer. However the parabolic nature of the story is never lost, nor is the journey from flawed to faithful the lesser for the change.
It's a well constructed play and very entertaining as well as genuinely touching towards the end. The cast perform their roles well, if at times with a hurriedness that slightly undercut sthe tension of some scenes. But as theological plays go, it's a fine experience and a pity it was only showing for such a brief spell.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan