EWTN are to screen a documentary about Leonie Caldecott’s new play about John Paul II, The Quality of Mercy. Performed over three nights preceding the beatification (on Divine Mercy Sunday) at the Oxford University Catholic Chaplaincy, the play - which also incorporated music and dance - was written in less than four months. It was directed by Tessa Caldecott, Leonie's daughter, with choreography by Anna Maria Mendell (a former Thomas More College student) and music by Benedict Nichols. Stratford Caldecott, who with Leonie directs Thomas More College's Oxford Centre for Faith and Culture described it to me as follows:
'It is part theatre of the Word and part ballet of the Word, a multi-levelled theo-drama about youth and age, despair and hope, the crisis of modernity, the vocations to marriage and to celibacy. It wove together the poetry of John Paul II and the techniques of his Rhapsodic Theatre with Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and passages from Scripture beautifully adapted by Dr Carl Schmidt of Balliol College, Oxford. It exposed the spiritual warfare taking place in the lives of young people and their families in the modernworld. It contained the late Pope’s teaching on Mercy, and on his Theology of the Body. These themes were held together by a strong story about a group of youngsters on a hike to the shrine of Manoppello in the Abruzzi, during the last days of John Paul’s life, accompanied by a mysterious stranger who leads each of them to a deeper understanding of themselves and of God’s love. This was a work that took seriously what John Paul had said in his Letter to Artists (1999): “unless faith becomes culture, it has not been really welcomed, fully lived, humanly rethought.” It even found a place for the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, the late Pope's favourite theologian. The relationship of Faith, Hope, and Love to the Logos was played out by a kind of Greek chorus, revealing the theological dimension of everyday life and the immense significance of the most seemingly trivial relationships.'
This is the second play by Divine Comedy Productions. The first A Theresian Mystery Play, performed last year at the Oxford Oratory, was about St Therese of Lisieux.
The EWTN documentary about the making of the play, The Quality of Mercy, will be shown in the US on 7th May, 10pm Eastern time, 7 pm Pacific, and in Europeon 3rd May, at 8 pm London time.
There are various interviews and articles about the play on the Forum page of the Second Spring web-site.
Stratford and Leonie Caldecott are the British editors of the journal of faith and culture Second Spring; are the directors of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts' Center for Faith and Culture; and of the annual Oxford Studies Program for TMC's undergraduates.
A scene from the play set on Holy Thursday, Charity offers 'Charlie' the chalice of Gethsemane.