By Blossom Gottlieb, Old Bedalian 2019
Perhaps it is the emotive true story of Mexican nun Juana de la Cruz that created the atmosphere of concentration in the Theatre during The Heresy of Love’s three-night run in December, athough I am inclined to give credit to the incredible cast and crew for really bringing this script to life. Smooth, practically choreographed transitions of the set whisked the audience from scene to scene, helped by the fabulous ensemble and their melodic singing. A gate was lowered from the ceiling to immediately capture the convent. This minimal use of set had maximum versatility, and therefore impact.
Notable performances from Kit Mayhook-Walker as Father Antonio and Oscar Clark as the archbishop at the start pulled the audience into the play ‘in medias res’ and remained strong, whilst Will Needs owned the stage with his excellently articulated monologues as Santa Cruz. Other beautiful examples of characterisation include Sienna Mills-Jung and Amber Pearson, who took on the roles of Sebastiana and Marguerita respectively, with Gus McQuillin as Viceroy and Bel de Gier giving a heart-warming performance as Vicereine.
Heart-warming is given an entirely new definition, however, by Fiamma PTCSG as Angelica; the actress’ technique was superb in creating the starry-eyed sister. Then there is Don Hernando, given spectacular stage presence by the effervescent Aidan Hall, in a role that I am sure all who know him would agree was seemingly made for him. His scenes with Fiamma might have been the most entertaining if it had not been for Livi Grout-Smith. Livi’s character, Juanita, won the most laughs from the audience and it is hardly surprising: from physicality to intonation, Livi’s genuine comedic talent was on full display. However, the star of the show was, of course, Miranda Woods Ballard as our protagonist, Juana. Gut wrenching and entirely loveable, Miranda tackled the role with the grace of a seriously experienced performer, whilst making it seem effortless.
The hard hitting topics of The Heresy of Love may have been cause for some concern; it is certainly not a story easily digested as a member of the audience. Yet it is clear, from the enormous amount of hard work and maturity shown in delivering this wonderful piece of art, that the students – both on stage and off – were more than capable. The Heresy of Love is perhaps the best show I have ever seen performed at the Olivier Theatre and I look forward to seeing where the talent in the cast find themselves in a decade’s time.
View more photos of The Heresy of Love here.