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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama



David Edgar

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To purchase Pentecost

Title: Pentecost
Author: David Edgar
Genre: Drama
Written: 1994
Length: 105 pages
Availability: Pentecost - US
Pentecost - UK

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Our Assessment:

B : solid, effective play combining larger questions of art and politics, with some clever touches -- and a few too simplistic ones

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian D 11/6/1995 Michael Ratcliffe
The Independent A- 28/10/1994 Paul Taylor
The LA Times . 9/6/2003 Tony Perry
New Statesman . 21/10/1994 Andy Lavender
The NY Times . 8/3/2005 Phoebe Hoban
The NY Times . 18/7/2014 Alexis Soloski
San Francisco Chronicle . 19/9/1997 Steven Winn
The Spectator C- 17/6/1995 Andrew Billen
The Telegraph . 20/3/2012 Daisy Bowie-Sell
The Village Voice A 19/12/1995 Jonathan Kalb

  Review Consensus:

  Decidedly mixed. Some hated his emphasis on language, some liked it. Some thought it was simplistic, some thought it was profound. And lots of Stoppard comparisons.

  From the Reviews:
  • "I must now come clean (appropriate phrase for this fresco-scrubbing play) and say that I found Pentecost a bitter disappointment. Its first fault (...) is its impersonality. David Edgar is not really interested in human relationships. His characters exist like separate words in one of the lists of vocabulary he likes so well. They amount to a human glossary from which we are meant to learn." - Michael Ratcliffe, The Guardian

  • "David Edgar's wonderfully thought-provoking new play (.....) With great wit and empathy, Edgar uses the fresco, its questionable status and the competing ethnic, national and religious interest-groups who flock round it, as a piquant vantage point from which to look at the ironies and agonies of post-Communist Eastern Europe and at conflicting attitudes towards art." - Paul Taylor, The Independent

  • "Pentecost, at the Old Globe, is a play of politics and ideas. The politics are post-Cold War turbulent; the ideas are challenging and disturbing. So don't expect to leave whistling a theme song, and be prepared to have your political preconceptions kicked in the knee." - Tony Perry, The Los Angeles Times

  • "On the page at least, Pentecost marks a development, for this playwright, in theatrical form. It is more subtly comic and ironic than anything to date." - Andy Lavender, New Statesman

  • "Despite its nearly three-hour length, Pentecost is never boring. The writing is engaging (.....) It's too bad, though, that Mr. Edgar didn't just stick with revolutionizing art history rather than trying to revolutionize the world." - Phoebe Hoban, The New York Times

  • "No less resonant now than when it had its premiere, the drama is a testament to Mr. Edgar’s literary skill and a rebuke to the political climate in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. (...) The play holds out the reed-thin hope that sometime, somewhere we might just manage to make ourselves known, heard, understood." - Alexis Soloski, The New York Times

  • "Priests and skinheads, sheltered academics and Third World refugees clamber to be heard in this churning, three-hour dialectic about history, ethnic hatred, language, religion, medieval myths and modern diasporas. Heavy pre-theater meals are not advised; Pentecost is a workout. (...) Pentecost recalls Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. Edgar's play is chillier and more mechanical. Its characters lack the emotional weight and depth of Stoppard's masterpiece." - Steven Winn, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "David Edgar's undoubtedly clever but over-long, over-elaborate and over-praised Pentecost (...) is a play about something too -- nationalism -- but a strange breed of humanoid word-generators occupies the space Shakespeare would have left for human beings." - Andrew Billen, The Spectator

  • "David Edgar’s superb play about language, people, art and culture. (...) From the beginning, Edgar has fun exploring the complexities of language." - Daisy Bowie-Sell, The Telegraph

  • "This is the meatiest new drama I have seen since Stoppard's Arcadia, which is, come to think of it, the only new play I have seen in the past decade whose rigor and historical depth meaningfully compare with Pentecost's." - Jonathan Kalb, The Village Voice

Please note and bear in mind that reviews of dramas often refer to specific performances rather than to the written work itself. (Note also that complete review's reviews refer specifically to the written text.)

Please note that these ratings solely represent
the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Set in an abandoned church in an unnamed eastern European country, Pentecost brings together art and politics. Oft subjugated, the country (and the church) has seen various conquerors and religions leave their mark, the last being the Soviet-style government that only recently collapsed. The native art curator Gabriella Pecs brings British art historian Oliver Davenport to the church, suggesting that behind its walls is a painting that appears to be by Giotto.
       As the play progresses the walls come slowly crumbling down and the painting is revealed, and evidence for and against its authenticity is weighed. It bears a striking resemblance to a Giotto painting, but evidence points to it having been painted a century before the artist lived. The use of perspective -- the beginning of modern art -- was only introduced into Western painting at a later date -- but is found here. Or was this perhaps the first such painting, a groundbreaking eastern contribution to Western art, copied by Giotto a century after it was painted ? Edgar presents a tantalizing puzzle, the answers changing as more pieces are revealed.
       There is also a considerable clash of cultures surrounding the debate as others come to the church: local priests, tourists, and then a motley assortment of refugees from many of the world's troublespots who wind up taking everyone hostage in an effort to get asylum. Edgar tries for a bit much here, though he weaves together these different strands fairly well. It is all perhaps a bit too simple and convenient -- Edgar really goes for the broadside -- but it does make for fairly effective theatre. In addition, the basic idea of the painting is tantalizing enough -- and very well built up -- to hold one's interest.
       There are more messages here than most dramatists fit in a career's worth of plays. From the Babel of languages to all the world's simmering-conflict issues to questions of art and history and interpretation, and modern media, business, and anti-terrorist technique, Edgar serves it all up. In places he is a bit too blunt, but generally it is a fair bit of entertainment.
       Effective theatre, well done. Recommended.

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Pentecost: Reviews: David Edgar: Other books by David Edgar under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Drama books

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About the Author:

       British playwright David Edgar was born in 1948. He is best known for Tony award winning adaptation, Nicholas Nickelby

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© 1999-2014 the complete review

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