Faith and questioning comes to hand in hand in Artemis Fitzalan Howard’s touching piece, Gate, premiering at The Cockpit Theatre. Getting in to heaven is far harder than it might seem for recently deceased Mark (Wil Coban), Rebecca (Eleanor Henderson), Luke (Joe McArdle) and Esther (Katie Sherrard). In the waiting room of Gate E1W, Guardian Angel Eve (Emma Dennis-Edward) guides the recent intake of lost souls through the administration process of purgatory.
Dennis-Edward's draws out the comedy in the role of receptionist come after-life facilitator, who loves nothing more than strictly following the book of being the perfect Guardian Angel. Bringing her scenes to life, Dennis-Edward's fires glances across the stage with comic precision. However, poor Eve is up against it - with deadlines to make and targets to hit, our Guardian Angel doesn’t have much time to consider what her faith in the system actually means. A chorus of angels (Luke Ward, Charlotte Christensen, Jack Reitman, Louise Grayford) chant exaltation's marking off each scene. Their rapturous praises are beautiful and add a pleasant through line for the piece.
At times the script feels clumsy with jokes that don’t always land and the closing monologues are needlessly lengthy which somewhat negatively weighs down the latter half of the piece. Some plots are loosely unravelled but rarely fully explored, which makes the character’s journeys often seem tepid. Howard opens up the discussion on how Christian faith is often mocked and belittled by outsiders, yet shows us that faith could well be vital in the development of humanity. At the heart of this piece is the underlining question of what power faith and religion have in today’s secular society. - Niall Hunt