Written and Directed by Jonathan Holmes

Wilton’s Music Hall

This is a magnificent play in a magnificent setting. Wilton’s Music Hall is a grade 2 listed building (sadly in need of repair) but its scope for stage settings is immense and atmospheric; this play, (set in the court of James I ) because of its scope in philosophical challenge and thought deserves such a space.

The play’s plot is about the gradual, unwilling and finally pragmatic conversion of the seventeenth century poet , John Donne, to the Anglican faith. When you consider Thomas More was his ancestor, you can begin to understand how tortuous Donne’s journey must have been, nor were the circumstances all that much different.

A sub-plot of the play is the final “getting together” of the new “authorized” version of the bible. We are given amusing insights into how church, scholars and poets could fall out over the finest detail of nuance or indeed sometimes meaning - as this new version was translated into English.

The Song of Solomon provided their most divisive challenge. It is (as you will know) an elegiac piece of writing about the love a man has for a woman and she for him. It is entirely passionate and lyrical. The church (in the play) takes the stance that it is no such thing, it is an allegory defining the relationship between us and God, God and us and therefore it has nothing whatever to do with sex or “any of those kinds of things.”

John Donne had everything to do with sex and all of “those kinds of things” and it was this passage in the Bible with which he was most closely involved. So to convert to the Protestant establishment of the day did indeed cause him profound moral as well as religious anxieties.

There are however moments of great humour in the debates; there are also scenes of nakedness and simulated love making as well as gay and lesbian expressions of desire .. it is in all, a very accurate picture of court life at the time.

Shaun Traynor

Wilton’s Music Hall

Grace’s Alley (off Ensign St) E1

Tues – Sat 7.45 pm Matinees Weds and Sats 3 pm

(No Performance Tues 14 and Thurs 16 June 2011)

Seats £15 - £30 Until 2 July

Box office 020 7638 8891


Wilton’s Music Hall is a wonderful old Grade II listed building now in need of substantial renovation. The trustees are trying hard to raise money to renovate and refurbish the property which oozes character and ambience. I wish them well. To help tel 020 7702 9555 or email