Brief: To report on a theatre event for the arts section of a local newspaper
The dramatic reading of Shushanik, a full length play by local playwright J. E. Fairweather saw Westminster Reference Library packed to the rafters, quite literally. The event, the first of its kind for the library, was held in the uppermost reading room of the historic building in St Martins Street WC2, set against a back-drop of books that referenced the period and location of the play, fifth Century Persia.
Based on a true story, Shushanik (Penelope Dudley) is an Armenian Queen, whose duplicitous husband Varsken (David Fraser) defects from his Christian faith to a corrupt form of Zoroastrianism, imposed by the Persian empire in a bid to conquer the will of the people. Shushanik refuses to bow to her husbands (and the new empires) edict and stands firm to her beliefs. She pays the ultimate price.
Billed as a tale of faith, love and treachery set amidst the turmoil of the fifth Century it certainly rose to the challenge. Despite being a dramatic reading and not a full costume performance, the excellent cast and rich script easily held the audience, with all palpably captivated right to the shocking conclusion.
The library venue was novel and intimate and the tie-in with books in the collection a great way to attract attention to what is clearly a treasure trove of reference material. A fascinating piece with a timeless relevance, performed by a great cast in a wonderful setting. More like this please!