“Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

Iona Hampson’s Our Temple tells the harrowing true story of the People’s Temple, a cult started by the charismatic Jim Jones whose lust for control and power led to tragedy.

The large cast was brilliantly led by Dave Porter’s Jim Jones, whose charisma made it easy to see how the members of the church became trapped by his teachings. However, this enigmatic magnetic individual quickly became disturbing; fuelled by drugs it soon became clear just how far he would go to ensure his congregation remained loyal.

”In many of the cases I was left wanting to find out more about each of the people that we were briefly introduced to”

The whole cast gave strong stand out performances, each having their moment to shine often in tear inducing acts of vulnerability, one moment which had me particularly invested was the miracle in the first act. In many of the cases I was left wanting to find out more about each of the people that we were briefly introduced to, which, although somewhat infuriating to an audience has made me endeavour to look into it more and find out as much as I can about each individual story.

”The fact that these words were directly from the victims and witnesses of the tragedy made it all the more powerful”

The script, written by director Iona Hampson, was clever and thoroughly believable, taking many of the words and records of the temple and presenting them verbatim, intermingling them with scenes reconstructed from such records. The fact that these words were directly from the victims and witnesses of the tragedy made it all the more powerful and the conclusion all the more heart-breaking.

Deciding to put on the play in traverse, with seating on either side was an interesting choice from the director which made us, as the audience, aware that we were just observers, much like watching a documentary played out in front of us, a poignant reminder that whilst we ought to remember the past we cannot change it, no matter how disturbing it is.

However, putting the play in traverse is not without its downfalls; in some of the scenes with a larger cast other members were occasionally blocked from the audience’s view meaning it was difficult to fully see what was going on, and in some of the more emotional moments the reactions of the characters was hidden from one side as they were looking towards the other.

”One part of the set and lighting that worked particularly well was the silhouette screen which excelled in one of the preliminary scenes”

The simplicity of the set and lighting, especially the isolating nature of the spotlights, worked well with the character driven plot and led to increase the intriguingness of the story. One part of the set and lighting that worked particularly well was the silhouette screen which excelled in one of the preliminary scenes where Jim Jones was introduced as a shadow before he was introduced as a person.

The sound design also worked well to draw out the general tone of the scenes; the music and voiceovers were haunting.

Our Temple is an experience that shouldn’t be missed, an impressive cast bring together this true, and yet equally unbelievable story which leaves you wondering how something like this could ever happen and whether something like this could ever happen again.

8/10 – Excellent, highly enjoyable

Daniel McVey

Image Courtesy of the Nottingham New Theatre

‘Our Temple’ is running at Nottingham New Theatre until Friday 7th April. For more information, and to book tickets, see here.

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