By William Mills
The English Touring Theatre’s
Eternal Love by Howard Brenton
The story of Abelard & Heloise
Showing at Brighton’s Theatre Royal Tues 1 April to Sat 5 April 2014
Set in the first half of the twelfth century France, Eternal Love is a stage play of religious fervour and scandalous love.
Peter Abelard’s modernist views on religion outrage traditionalist monk Bernard of Clairvaux leading to a life long clash of wills and set against a backdrop of forbidden love, for if Abelard is to become Pope in heady far off days he can’t marry his sweetheart.
Heloise is the teenage niece of Abelard’s patron, churchman Fulbert. Originally entrusted to teach, he seduces her instead.
“I seduced him!” She claims coming to his defence.
As the years pass, alas all is not well, Abelard is attacked and retires to a monastery leaving a distraught Heloise to live out her days in a nunnery.
This two part play, directed by John Dove, has an unusual start with members of the cast circulating amongst the audience who are distracted from the opening song which otherwise would have set the scene perfectly.
David Sturzaker plays Abelard alongside Jo Herbert who as Heloise brings the play alive with laughter and love. Sam Crane is a very able Bernard of Clairvaux.
In the second part at the dramatic showdown at Sens, Julius D’Silva as King Louis VI gives a fabulous performance and some much needed laughter. Heloise’s uncle cannon Fulbert was well played by Edward Peel as was Fulbert’s cousin by Tim Frances.
Brighton’s Theatre Royal is an excellent venue for a memorising play of this calibre as its stage is just right to give the cast plenty of space and a specially constructed raised area for the musicians to play period melodies with lute, flute and recorder. Composer William Lyons sought to reflect the unfolding action by making the music become part of it.
The final scene of the communal dance is truly inspiring as it depicts Abelard declaring his love ‘now and forever’ for Heloise, giving the audience a realistic glimpse of the medieval world of the Troubadours and Trouveres……………..
An excellent evening.