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Luther Reviews

DAILY MAIL (London)
October
12, 2001

 

----------But John Osborne's Luther at the National is just as welcome, an epic warning signal to those whose religious conviction alters the world for ever.

Osborne's astonishing play arrived in 1961, after Look Back In Anger and The Entertainer, adding a European canvas to his dramas of radical individuality.

Rufus Sewell, dark and raffish, plays the Augustinian friar, Martin Luther, with a rasping passion and a permanent scowl due to his constant constipation.

He commands the stage with a fine, natural gusto in Peter Gill's elegant production of processions and Latin chants among the drapes and pillars of Alison Chitty's beautiful, spacious design.


Luther is inducted in the order of monks, lacerates the religious hierarchy from the pulpit in Wittenberg and nails his sermons to the castle church door.

You understand why when Richard Griffiths rolls hilariously into view as Tetzel, the corrupt Dominican preacher selling indulgences like a game show host ('Come on, get your money out!').

While the Cardinal (an incisive, glacial Malcolm Sinclair) exerts pressure on Luther, Pope Leo (Mark Tandy) lounges in leathers and goes hunting with (real) Irish wolfhounds.

And at the climactic Diet of Worms in 1521 - the medieval assembly of the Holy Roman Empire - Luther refuses to recant and repeats that he only answers to Scripture, God's word.

The play is an enjoyable epic that burns with Osborne's characteristic talent for disgust and rhetoric.

Peter Gill's large, handpicked cast includes vivid cameos from Timothy West as a sympathetic vicar-general and Andrew Woodall as the nameless knight who laments the turmoil and carnage caused by Luther's principled lurch towards the Reformation.
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                        Thanks for the picture, Marina and Helen!

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