In an effort to find meaning in the murder of his daughter aspiring politician John Daniels (Richard Vergette – who also wrote the play) tries to educate, and so redeem, her killer, Lee Fenton (Joe Sims) This is a difficult task, as Fenton is illiterate and morally repugnant. The gradual transformation of this character seems to prove the redemptive power of education but we start to have doubts about the motives of his teacher.
As We Forgive Them satisfies on every level and benefits from a pair of great performances. It is rare to hear convincing American accents sustained throughout an entire show. Sim's turn perfectly reflects the description of Fenton as 'disposable humanity.' Even before he speaks, his insolent body language reeks of ignorance as he sprawls, hunched and sneering. This gifted actor suggests that education gives this unfortunate a sense of identity but little dignity – the poor white trash is never far from the surface.
Vergette delivers a complex character showing the grief of Daniels and his strong commitment to his ideals.Yet there is a realistic ambiguity that leaves us guessing about the character’s motives.
The tense atmosphere created by Andrew Pearson’s clear direction, which is so subtle, it becomes apparent only when a change in mood gives the audience some slight relief.
Vergette’s script tackles themes of guilt, redemption, forgiveness and ambition but does so within the framework of an absorbing thriller that secures complete concentration. Like the best writers he flatters the audience into thinking they have guessed the ending and then throws in a credible surprise twist.
Although memorable, the dialogue does not draw attention to itself and so progresses, rather than distracts from, the plot. An enquiry about Sim’s living conditions becomes a subtle insult and conveys a sense of menace. Surprisingly, the script contains also a number of really good jokes that are a welcome relief from the tension.
As We Forgive Them delivers a thought – provoking drama in the form of an absorbing and effective thriller and should not be missed.