Review: The Good Book, Slung Low and Leeds People’s Theatre

One of the plus sides to lockdown has been the generosity of many companies and artists across the country, who have shared their work online to entertain the masses in this time of need. It’s been a call to action, bringing people together in a way that we’ve never known before. Produced by Slung Low and Leeds People’s Theatre, The Good Book is a short-film that premiers online on Friday 1st of May 2020, highlighting the importance of a glimmer of hope, within a dark and uncertain time.

Truly listening to the needs of their artists and audiences, Slung Low are an inspirational and award-winning theatre company. Based in Leeds, at The Holbeck, they offer “Pay What You Decide” productions, development and performance platforms, and a sharing service for equipment and tech, all whilst still running the building as a traditional members bar. How cool.

If that doesn’t sound dreamy enough, community is at the heart of what Slung Low do. Leeds People’s Theatre is a new initiative set up by the company, with the support of Leeds 2023, to produce a large-scale, professional and political piece of work that takes the community on a theatrical adventure. So, it’s no surprise that their newest production is a short-film featuring a cast of 100 Leeds locals teaming up with a cast of professional actors.

The Good Book is set in the future of Leeds. In a world that is alarmingly familiar. A world in which a land is divided and civil war begins. The film opens with a beautifully theatrical prologue of voices from the community. They tell the story of a revolution that happened 10 years ago, where Queen Bear channelled King Arthur and sought power to demolish an “insufficient establishment.” Now the people are divided, between Bear loyalists and radical Galahad followers and a young woman named Avalon must save a precious item if there is any chance of peace.

Directed by Brett Chapman and designed by David Farley, credit has to be given to the look and delivery of this film. It feels like a huge-scale big-budget piece but with the heart and soul of an indie film – Leeds pride is shining through. 

At points, the story feels a little rushed and confusing with some off-topic action. The world and atmosphere are clear but the actions of the characters require more context and understanding. However, writer James Phillips has done well to drop in some clever motifs, such as the burning of books as history repeats itself or the fact that Avalon is messaging a person assumingly from Ireland, reminding her that there can be a positive outcome after a revolution. Heather Fenoughty’s score is a wonderfully stylish feature of this film adding a theatrical but also other-worldly element of tension.

Riana Duce is a likeable heroine as Avalon and we’re lost in the battle of beliefs with her. Nothing seems to make sense to Avalon but as she follows the hints laid out for her and reaches her destination, she feels even more lost; making her, crucially, relatable. Another interesting element highlights literature as the final hint of hope, art changes how we think and feel – a poignant message at this time. 

The Good Book is successful in achieving Sung Low’s aims, “We believe that access to culture is a fundamental part of a happy life. We believe that actions, however small, can have a big impact. We believe that culture can change our world for the better.” This film is a triumph for the Leeds community but also reassures the individual to continue on the journey ahead and trust that there will be hope, no matter how confusing and uncertain it may feel at the time.

The Good Book premiers online on 1st May 2020. For more information, see Slung Low’s website.