For a first time theatre goer, I really wasn’t sure what to expect of the Spire, a play about the origins of the spire atop Salisbury Cathedral. Once the slow-motion effects kicked-in, I was back in familiar movie-like territory, and sat in awe of a well-designed, cinematic play with a local story to tell.
Originally a novel by William Golding, and adapted to the stage by Roger Spottiswoode, the Spire was originally intended to be a feature film, and I got the feeling it could’ve made a good one. There are moments where the cathedral crumbles and the spire sways uncontrollably in the wind, and the play does well to portray them using set-design and special effects, but the darker sides of the story are left untold, possibly due to difficulty in showing them on stage.
The story follows Dean Jocelin’s quest to build a spire atop the cathedral after he receives a vision from God, and continues to demand its construction against the advice of Master Builder, Roger Mason, who deems the foundations too unstable to hold the increased weight. It’s not that building the spire is so significant (except to the Dean), but it’s what the Dean is willing to sacrifice along the way that makes the play so encapsulating.
I loved the Dean’s character. You could see he was so blinded by his vision that he’d go to any lengths to get the job done, and as the story unfolds, starts to become physically and emotionally damaged by his quest, and hurts the institution of God, and those whom he loves.
The failing in the story was to portray the sanity of the Dean, who proclaims an angel at his back gives directions to build the spire, and he refers to self-flagellating, as if his sanity is crumbling, and his vision from God in-fact the hallucinations of a very sick man.
It was a great play and a great piece of drama, although I would have made the Dean take the ultimate sacrifice at the end, as I felt he didn’t pay a high enough price for completing his quest. For a first time theatre goer, it was quite good, with plenty of visual treats and intense (if a little wordy) drama, and I certainly hope that one day it reaches the screen as well as the stage.