I love theatre performed in special or unusual places, so I was determined to see T.S. Eliot’s drama Murder in the Cathedral, performed in the stunning surroundings of Saint Bartholomew the Great near the Barbican. This beautiful church was the perfect setting for this drama about Thomas Becket, performed by Little Spaniel Theatre.
Luckily I know my history: someone who didn’t might have struggled to follow what was going on. Becket, a close friend and ally of Henry II, was made Archbishop of Canterbury but his developing piety and insistence on the rights of the Church caused conflict between the two of them. Eventually Becket was murdered by four of Henry’s knights: it has been argued that Henry said something to imply or confirm that he wanted Becket dead, but the exact circumstances are shrouded in the mists of time.
While the cast performed their roles well, I wasn’t too keen on the play itself. Eliot’s idea of turning the women of Canterbury into a kind of Greek chorus was an interesting one, but the play as a whole seemed rather drawn out, and some of the rhyming couplets just sounded wrong. I left without any particular appreciation of Eliot as a playwright, but with a definite appreciation of the stunning setting.