Controversial playwright Howard Barker is known to challenge his audiences with complex and dark material. Lot and His God is no different. In the span of the show’s one hour running time, viewers are left perplexed, shocked and touched. These words are not often placed together, but with Barker, it is to no surprise.
The play derives from the biblical story of Lot and his wife and the destruction of the city Sodom. While it is not a literal depiction of the tale in the Book of Genesis, the themes of betrayal, immorality and greed are consistent.
Based in a small room with dim lights and a few dusty chairs, there is an immediate sense of unease. We are introduced to Lot’s attractive wife Sverdlosk and a man referred to as “the angel”. The two are bickering in a heated, almost seductive, manner about the obliteration of Sodom, and the need for Sverdlosk and her family to flee the city. When Lot enters the room, they barely acknowledge his presence and blatantly continue their tete-a-tete. It is quickly revealed that Lot’s wife is regularly promiscuous and not afraid to hide her antics from her husband.
Lot’s powerful position as (some believe) a prophet of God is overshadowed by his disempowerment with his wife. This uncomfortable juxtaposition is brought to a head when Sverdlosk runs off with the angel, and Lot is left alone with the dishevelled café waiter to dissect the apocalyptic state of the city and worse, in his eyes, the ways of his adulterous wife.
“Theatre of Catastrophe”, a phrase Barker is known to use, perfectly sums up this play. The combination of a failing marriage within a city in ruins makes for an unsettling, even tragic, atmosphere. But a twist at the end leaves the audience wondering if perhaps there is a chance for a happy ending.
Both the director and art director have worked wonderfully together to create a sense of foreboding. All three lead performances are convincing, as is the destructive relationship between Lot and his wife. By the end of show, we begin to care for these characters and hope for a marriage reconciliation, especially in the wake of death.
This is certainly not an easy story to take in, but it is one that raises questions making for heated banter and debate.
Lot and His God is at The Print Room until Saturday 24 November. Tickets are £20/concessions £15. Show starts at 7.30pm Monday to Saturday and at 3.30pm for Saturday matinee.
Photo supplied by The Print Room