On paper, a play called The Heretic focused on a climate change debate between university academics, a stoner student and an anorexic brat doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs. But then, “on paper” is really what the play’s about. Reports, papers, theories. Sometimes, you need to see things for yourself. Because The Heretic is funny, entertaining and ten times lighter than an energy-saving light bulb.
Whilst there were a few dramatic moments, with dialogue so fast and furious that one character actually gets slapped, the actors took a ‘less is more’ approach — like the theatrical equivalent of painstakingly assembling a first date outfit that doesn’t look like you’ve made too much effort. It gave the play a natural feel, as did the two realistic sets.
That said, there was a little over-egging on occasion — a security guard whose character only really served to cement the Yorkshire stereotype, and some lines felt a bit 70s sitcom, jarring with the clever comedic tone of the rest of the play. But overall, writer Richard Bean’s time as a stand-up comedian came through. That’s not to say the actors heckled audience members on their way to the toilet. But rather, it was funny. Really funny. Yeah, there were some bits that could do with an update (would a 21-year old be making jokes about The Archers?), but until a bigger paedo-scandal comes out, the Gary Glitter reference should definitely stay. (The Jimmy Saville scandal is just breaking at time of writing…).
The first half seemed more focused and knew what it wanted to say, presenting both sides of the argument as slightly flawed amid witty dialogue. Whilst the second half wasn’t quite as tight in tying up loose ends, it was still very watchable. And our Professors-in-residence, played by Cate Hamer and Stuart Fox, would serve well as climate advisors in The Thick Of It — and not just for repeatedly dropping the f-bomb.
The promotional strapline was “I’m a scientist, I don’t believe in anything”. But the running theme questioned whether any of us can really have an unbiased view that’s not riddled with our own agenda. Did The Heretic suffer from the same? No, not really. Bean more posed, than imposed, his views.
The only glaring negative is the name. Whilst ‘An Inconvenient Truth — The Blooper Reel’ isn’t quite accurate, it’s a shame that ‘The Heretic’ could put people off, as it doesn’t really convey the humour and light handling of a heavy subject. Because I really would recommend going to see it. Whether you travel to the Library Theatre in a 4x4 that runs on the hot air spouted by politicians, or a bicycle with carbon-neutral spokey-dokeys, what really matters is that you get there at all.