Saltmine pays tribute to Luther at Norwich Playhouse
On Tuesday evening at Norwich Playhouse the national Christian theatre company, Saltmine, performed their fast-paced tribute to the life and legacy of Martin Luther, with Norwich actor Freddy Goymer taking the lead role. Jenny Seal reports.
On Tuesday, June 12, in front of a two hundred strong audience, the Christian theatre company, Saltmine Trust, performed their ‘Legacy: The Story of Martin Luther’ at the Norwich Playhouse. The two-act production, which lasted just short of two hours, charts the major events in the dramatic life of the 16th Century Reformer Martin Luther.
The play begins with Luther on his death bed, and proceeds through a series of flashbacks. Actor Freddy Goymer (27), originally from Norwich, plays the German theologian, talking directly to the audience as he looks back on scenes from his life.
The cast of five actors deliver a fast-moving, impressively choreographed performance. The episodes transition with energy from Luther’s birth to faith conversion in a thunderstorm to his early life as a tormented monk. It shows him as a University Professor realising with amazement the concept of salvation by faith, and how he becomes increasingly disillusioned with certain practices promoted by the Roman church.
Freddy Goymer plays Luther with an emotional range that gives the theologian real and complex humanity. Often intense and in anguish, privately plagued by inner demons and self-doubt, Luther is also shown to be confident and publically courageous standing up for his theology despite the danger.
Alongside Freddy, the small, ensemble cast play a vast array of characters moving from one to the other seamlessly - from Luther’s friends, family, colleagues and students to Pope Leo X, Prince Frederick III and the radical leader Thomas Muntzer.
The play shows the reaction to Luther’s teachings in Rome and the various trials which would unsuccessfully call for Luther to recant his writings, leading to his excommunication and outlaw status.
In the second act Luther is found furiously translating the Bible into German for the benefit of ordinary men and women, followed by the unforeseen effects this has on his contemporary society. With surprising warmth and humour we also see Luther enjoying unexpected happiness in marriage and family life.
The multiple levels of a modest set are used cleverly to represent different settings from monastery to court room, bar to bedroom, and characters are differentiated through the use of accessories. This simplicity allows for rapid scene changes. This pace reminds the audience of the massive cultural and religious shift that happened so swiftly as a result of Luther’s life.
The play is a tribute to how God used this flawed but faithful man, Martin Luther, to bring about a huge spiritual, religious and cultural shift that would go on to positively change the world and the lives of many people across the centuries.
Saltmine’s ‘Legacy’ began as a shorter piece performed in churches to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. The script has been revised and expanded to its present format giving time to explore Luther’s character and spiritual journey in more depth. This version is currently touring in venues around the country and will be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.
For more information about Legacy and the Saltmine Trust go to www.saltminetrust.org.uk.
Photo: the cast of 'Legacy' L-R: Alys, Ben, Freddy, Duncan and Marcel