Despite the name of this blog, I'm not a religious person but I do like listening to gospel singing on occasions. Of course James Baldwin's play is more than gospel singing, much more, but the songs provide rare moments of harmony between a group of characters connected by faith but conflicted by internal politics.
The protagonist of the piece is Sister Margaret (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) a strict but dedicated pastor of a small Harlem church whose past catches up with her testing her faith, re-kindling old emotions and threatening her position.
Sister Moore (Cecilia Noble) is Sister Margaret's foil and a delicious character to watch. She is all outward innocence and piety, 'praise the Lord' never far from her lips, while inwardly she is manipulating and conniving. Most of the laughs come from Sister Moor thanks to Noble's superb comic timing and delivery. She can make the most innocent phrase funny.
In fact there are superb performances all round but it is Marianne Jean-Baptiste who has your heart in her hands and tears pricking (an early contender for an Olivier was one summary). The play is set over three separate days and yet Sister Margaret's personal journey seems almost epic. This is a play about love and loss, life and death and faith and how it shapes us and our lives.
It is beautifully done, superbly judged and paced so that big scenes melt seemlessly into the smaller quieter ones. And the singing is beautiful. So I say amen to Amen Corner, well worth a visit to the National Theatre where it is playing in rep until 14 August.
Other theatre blogger reviews:
Lucian Msamati who plays Luke was in Richard II with Mr W.