"New spin on classic epic"
by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 06/04/17

To adapt “The Divine Comedy”, Dante’s epic three part poem, into a 90 minute play is extremely ambitious. To do so, with such skill, as Douglas Baker has done for KDC, is therefore a big achievement. Suicidal, Dante (Alex Chard) is taken by the poet Virgil (Jack Blackburn) on a tour of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. There he meets the souls of the damned, the saved and those stuck between those two places (Kathryn Taylor-Gears, Michaela Mackenzie, Juliette Chrisman, Sophia Speakman and Marialuisa Ferro). This concludes with a meeting with Beatrice (Kathryn Taylor-Gears), a woman who Dante was (platonically) in love with.

Technically, the performance is amazing, making full use of the cosy Barons Court space, and using sound and video to enhance the journey. However, Baker’s interpretation of the text is certainly unorthodox, instead of Dante finding redemption through imitating Christ’s virtues, we see a man gradually becoming more and more disgusted with what he sees as a capricious and unjust God. In essence this is more the afterlife as imagined by Philip Pullman, rather than that of Dante. Indeed, one scene where we see St Peter and St John waterboarding Dante is particularly shocking.

Still, it is the right of an adaptor to put their own particular spin on the source material, even if it is one that the author would have disagreed with. As a theatrical experience it is both shocking and provocative.

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