How apt that Peter Oswald’s play should coincide with Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. Undoubtedly, the Bard is a touchstone for this unwieldy epic.
And yet the comparison does Lucifer Saved at the Lion & Unicorn no favours. The master communicates universal themes and resonant emotion through transcendent poetry. Oswald wrangles rhyming couplets in the service of something both simplistic and impenetrable.
The bare-bones story involves an army chaplain tricked by his commanding officer into believing he committed an atrocity in 1945. Twenty years later, the truth gradually unravels on the officer’s estate, juxtaposed with the antics of a travelling circus.
There are big ideas here: the horror of war as crisis of faith, grief and survivor’s guilt, the power of escapism. But what we get is a glacially paced, incoherent soap opera with creaking anti-climax. It’s a tame three-hour episode of Jeremy Kyle.