Bible play arrives in London’s West End

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s new play on the translation of the King James Bible has opened in London’s West End to critical acclaim.

Not long after the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible last year, the superbly acted “Written on the Heart” has arrived at the Duchess Theatre on a limited run until 21 July.

The play, written by David Edgar, sets out the historical context of the KJV and the struggle not only of theologians to “get it right”, but of the nation and clergy alike to embrace the changes.

A moving scene portrays William Tyndale in prison the night before his execution, determined to carry out his work of translating the Bible into English right up to the last moment of his life - a memorable insight into the human cost that was involved in bringing God’s Word to the masses.

The play moves seamlessly between different time periods, revealing the extent to which theology and politics played a hand in the process, far beyond the politics of Henry VIII.

Edgar undoubtedly had a task on his hand to condense the story of the English Bible into a few hours so, not surprisingly, the result is an intensely dialogue-based play with little in the way of “action” and only a few jokes here and there to break it up.
Although the dialoguing can seem a little overdone at moments, the set pieces are beautiful and the cast fantastic.
Lancelot Andrewes, King James’s leading translator, is wonderfully brought to life by Oliver Ford Davies. Aware of the blood that has been shed in his lifetime in the name of faith, he searches his conscience and his soul while weighing up the need for both biblical truth and peace in the land.
Stephen Boxer encapsulates all of the unwavering conviction, courage and determination one would imagine Tyndale possessed, even in the faith of death.
While much of the dialogue will be lost on anyone does not know much about this part of Christian history, “Written on the Heart” will be a hugely rewarding, enlightening and enjoyable play to anyone who does.