Friday, May 18, 2018

Quiet Faith

by David Williams

The Courtyard Studio
Until 19 May

Reviewed by Samara Purnell

Red carpet, smooth, curved bench seats (pews) and a “halo” of light suspended above the audience set the scene for “Quiet Faith”. A pleasant surprise was the offering of cushions to sustain one’s posterior comfort for the duration of the show – perhaps an indication that the “Church” we were entering wasn’t of the Catholic denomination! The sleek, attractive set design by Jonathon Oxlade saw Rose Maher and writer/actor David Williams move through and sit amongst the audience throughout the performance.

Rose Maher and David Williams, photo by Samara Purnell

The premise of “Quiet Faith” was to delve into the thoughts and experiences of today’s Christians, specifically, about their journey of faith, how it manifests in daily life and their views on the relationship between religion and politics. The project was created by Williams, through interviews and conversations with Christians from varying denominations.

The actors recite, verbatim, accounts of attending Church as children, marriage proposals by ministers who had been “spoken to by God”, the loss of the social aspect within religious groups and a school chaplain who had become an alcoholic after counselling his students following a public student suicide. There were recollections of struggle and rebellion, as well as humour and the mundane, but each recount is only given a minute or two. There was some physical embodiment of different “characters”, but overall not a large amount of delineation between each vocalisation, giving a slightly generic outlook, unspecific to gender or age.
Those belonging to a Christian faith and community, or those who may have reflected on the topics of religion and modern life in any depth, have likely heard similar stories, encountered these things themselves or at the very least, considered these viewpoints. Most theatre goers will likely not be challenged by the material presented here, with nothing overtly thought-provoking thematically.

“Quiet Faith” does not seek to persuade or moralise, however it does, inadvertently perhaps, encourage a gentle reflection of our own thoughts and experiences on the questions posed and subjects raised, regardless of what faith we may or may not have. How do we attune political issues with our moral compass? If Jesus preached love and compassion for all people, how do we align our proclamation of Christianity with our stance on refugees, or gay marriage, for example, when it can feel like “Love versus the rules” or “Compassion versus logistics”.

There were recorded interludes of soft choral music, church bells, conversations and prayer, with the audience joining in, upon invitation, on a couple of occasions. There is nothing here though to dissuade non-Christians from seeing “Quiet Faith” and on opening night everyone seemed to respond intuitively and keenly. A genuine sense of reverence and calm pervaded, and when the lights were dimmed it felt somewhat like a vigil.

“Quiet Faith” had a subdued ending, and seemed an apt name for this gentle and well-presented production.