Review – Sanctuary

Aug 14 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩  Touching portrait

Promotion image for Sanctuary

Promotion image for Sanctuary

Just at St John’s (Venue 127)
Mon 12 – Wed 14, Fri 16 August, 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

David McFarlane’s Sanctuary is a low-key, subtle meditation on the break-up of a relationship which manages to carry some real emotional weight in the cramped confines of the Chapel at St John’s Church.

Michael and Janet are a young couple whose relationship appears to give them both comfort from the outside world. However, events conspire to burst their bubble and it is clear from the outset that their partnership is doomed.

Director Kirsty Barker makes excellent use of the small space, creating an almost claustrophobic atmosphere, along with a feeling that we really are eavesdropping on the real life of two young people. Rob David, as the slightly older, more uptight Michael, and Cara Wicks as the younger, more naïve Janet, both give sympathetic and effective performances. They are particularly strong at giving non-verbal cues; small gestures and seemingly insignificant physical contact establish in our minds from the start that they are definitely a couple.

Indeed, moments of silence provide some of the best parts of the performance, and might profitably have been expolited further. David in particular is able to convey a great deal while saying nothing, and both characters’ reactions to those ‘we have to talk’ moments are heart-breakingly accurate.

Where the play is less strong is in conveying a strong sense of progression.  The  writing is assured in conveying how difficult it is to foresee the impact of  apparently good decisions, with such a believable couple having been established, their break-up is not nearly so convincing. Despite it being signalled early on that it will all end badly, the structure of the piece is mostly linear, and there should be more development of the characters. Janet, whose ingenuous glee at being in a ‘grown-up’ relationship signals her naivete early on, suffers particularly in this regard.

This does not cancel out the impact of what goes earlier in this touching if relentlessly downbeat piece.  McFarlane and his Black Dingo Productions should be commended for the emotional honesty shown here.

Running time 50 mins
Run ends Fri 16 August 2013
Daily (not Thurs 15) 6 pm
Venue 127, Just at St John’s , St John’s Church, Princes St, EH2 4BJ
Tickets from


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