Saturday 23 September 2017

Gate @ The Cockpit Theatre

Gate @ The Cockpit Theatre

The team behind Gate are an ambitious bunch. Artemis Fitzalan Howard has written a play that seeks to explore religion, the purpose of faith, the meaning of life. Yet the results, under director Sadie Spencer, fail to live up to such lofty, celestial expectations.

It starts with a rather trite setup. Four stereotypes are stuck in purgatory awaiting God's approval to enter heaven. This 'gate' is literally a waiting room run by receptionist Eve (Emma Dennis-Edward), who leads a series of games and team exercises to test the faith of the four recently deceased - throwing a ball of shame between them, for instance, or answering quiz questions on the Bible.

There's nothing particularly dramatic or exciting about this, however, and in the process of these games we learn little about the characters beyond a love for pies, calzone and dick pics. None of the characters are particularly likeable - they certainly don't deserve to be in heaven, no matter how much they may try - and they never develop beyond their initial stereotypes. There's the narcissistic bitch Rebecca, played with real zest by Eleanor Henderson; there's the good Christian know-it-all Esther with a taste for wine (Katie Sherrard); the arrogant fop (Wil Coban); and the gullible nice guy who's so nice he simply irritates the others (Joe McArdle).

The setup does allow for plenty of comedy, with some witty moments in the script and some amusing performances. It also whips along at a good pace and its short runtime ensures there's no room to be bored. Yet by playing everything for laughs, it undermines any sincerity in exploring the subject matter. It might be fun to watch, but what are we actually learning? The idea of being a 'good person' is not particularly insightful.

Some added atmosphere is provided by four angels singing sacred tunes, but they (understandably) struggle singing a capella stood independently around the stage. Indeed struggle is the operative word here: where the characters are in a state of existential crisis, so too is this production.


Watch: 'Gate' runs at the Cockpit Theatre until 24th September.