Written by Patrick Gabridge
Directed by Rebecca Bradshaw
Review by Gillian Daniels
WARNING: Scenes of torture.
(Boston) I’ve always been skeptical of the “martyr” concept but enjoy it when it’s depicted well. A martyr trades one life for an immortal one, living beyond death through the ideas he championed in life. He’s not always a hero and he doesn’t always come from a selfless place, but he sacrifices himself all the same.
In Patrick Gabridge’s Fire On Earth, William Tyndale (Bob Mussett) works to translate the Bible into English. It’s 1524, King Henry VIII is contemplating divorce from his first wife, and the Catholic Church has a stranglehold on the Latin Bible. The Church decides when it’s read, who’s able to understand it, and what it means to the largely illiterate English masses. Religion isn’t personal, it’s a business. Mussett’s Tyndale, with a blissful naïveté in his face, opts to preach with his new translation. Sir Thomas More and the bishops are not pleased.Tyndale’s allies are student John Frith (James Fay) and the show stealing Omar Robinson as the tradesman, John Tewkesbury. Tewkesbury sees a golden opportunity to profit from the demand for English bibles. Frith, a pious young man, is more ardent in his belief while Tyndale only thinks he’s doing God’s work.
Bishop John Stokesley (Brett Milanowski) is a purring, clucking villain, bent on keeping the bible controlled by the Church and out of the hands of the English. He is cold and zealous in his pursuit of bringing Tyndale to justice. If history wasn’t there to back up the play, with the bloodthirsty Thomas More and the death penalty for heresy, Stokesley would be more caricature than man.
Much more complex and dynamic is Tewkesbury. Robinson’s character is a business man but never a ruthless one. He appears to have more of a passion for making money than making history. Still, even he is touched by Tyndale’s goals and Frith’s selflessness. He shares in their frustrations and looks toward a better England and its future.