The Temptation of St Anthony is a beautiful, emotionally-charged exposition on spiritual possession. Its multicultural cast explore the topic from multiple perspectives, layering music, physicality and dialogue in a complex and multi-faceted piece.
A self-help group, the words ‘Edinburgh Spiritual Emergency Support Group’ embellished on a chalk board, morphs into a stimulating auditory and visually pleasing rendition of spiritual possession. Its surreal approach transports you through all senses. With multiple points of climax, the mantras transport you to a place of demon possession.
Its rapidly changing sequences and innovative use of movement and sound expose the complexity of spiritual possession. The sterile self-help group seems far away and pitifully futile, the attempts to cure all appear to be in vain. The Temptation of St Anthony does a remarkable job of representing, in the abstract and surreal, what medicine and religion grapples to fully understand. The legend of St Anthony, a man who isolated himself from society to travel through the Egyptian desert only to meet spiritual demons, is interwoven with the piece. Spiritual possession was as culturally dependent and baffling back then as it is today, and the reference to history makes the subject matter more urgent.
The cast handle the complex subject matter admirably, and their physicality is as good as their dialogue. The Temptation of St Anthony milks all tools available to it to create a truly powerful piece, the vocals stunning, the props simple and effective. There are some moments where academia meets theatre, and the two aren’t quite sure how to communicate (“metaphysical kebab”), but overall The Temptation of St Anthony is a beautiful construction, a careful portrayal that is entirely captivating. Despite the debilitating echo in Summerhall’s Demonstration Room the performance remains immensely powerful.
The Temptation of St Anthony is playing until 30 August, as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Fringe website.