In this largely faithless world of ours, few go bonkers for the bible.
Those in need of unbending moral instruction study The Daily Mail, instead.
Meanwhile, the Holy Book is relegated to the hotel drawer, where it huddles in the shadows, avoiding the constant babble of pay per view porn.
Yet the bible isn’t just a historical object, or a tome to be clutched by those on the way to the tomb.
It carries huge cultural and political significance, as is made clear by David Edgar’s weighty new play, Written On The Heart, about the political turmoil surrounding the translation of the bible into English.
This year marks the four hundredth anniversary of the King James Bible.
Edgar reveals that it was lucky to make it past conception.
Principal translator, William Tyndale, was executed for the audacity of dabbling with God’s words. His punishment was death by strangulation.
Tyndale viewed an English language bible as a democratising force. The common man could now study it in his own tongue, so no need for a pompous, powerful priesthood.
Even after Tyndale’s death, debate raged as to how far this transparency of faith should go.
Much blood was shed before the classic version of the English bible made its safe passage into the hotel drawer.
Edgar is skilled at bringing life and lustre to centuries old Medieval arguments and personalities. This is an intellectually rigorous play. Audiences have to keep their wits about them in order to keep track of the debates, and even identify the key protagonists. (Nearly everyone hides behind a fecundity of facial hair.)
There are a few lighter moments, and even a saucy skirt-flashing episode. But this is not the kind of play that Andrew Lloyd Webber will ever take to the West End.
However, those who enjoy a thought provoking, well dramatised history lesson will be delighted by Written On The Heart.
Until March 2012
Rating * * * *