Arts & Books

Theatre preview: On the trail of a fiery hedonist who found grace

A scene from Iñigo which opens at the Pleasance this month

Jonathan Moore went to extraordinary lengths when writing Iñigo, his play about the life of St Ignatius of Loyola – the 16th-century Spanish saint who founded the Jesuits and formulated the Spiritual Exercises.

In order to get closer to what drove St Ignatius, the Catholic writer, actor and director headed out on the Ignatian Camino, retracing the footsteps of his chosen subject across Spain. “I walked from Loyola to Manresa on foot and it nearly killed me,” Moore says. “It was part-pilgrimage, part-research, 35 days just with a backpack, just me on my own.

“I have followed the Spiritual Exercises six or seven times at silent retreats. When writing the play I was interested in the man who would come up with those prayers, and Ignatian spirituality generally. I’m also very interested in controversial characters, people who are prepared to take on the prevailing wisdom and fight for what they believe in, particularly if they think it’s coming from divine inspiration.”

Ignatius certainly did “take on the prevailing wisdom” in his lifetime, with his radical ideas causing him to fall under the suspicion of the Inquisition. The play tells this part of the saint’s history, as well as his younger days as a hot-headed soldier and how he came to develop his religious ethos after being injured in battle. Moore says he hopes Iñigo will appeal to both a Catholic and a secular audience, adding that he has intentionally produced an unvarnished account
of Ignatius’s life.

“Ignatius was a rebellious, hedonistic youth and he was initially ambitious for political advancement – for his own fame
and fortune,” says Moore.

“He had a hot temper throughout his life but learnt to control it. His story gives hope to everybody. I’m trying to show he was deeply human and flawed in many ways, but he trusted in the divine to turn those weaknesses into strengths.

“There is no contradiction between portraying someone I admire and showing them warts and all – if we didn’t it would be a two-dimensional portrait and that wouldn’t be honest.”

Moore’s long career in the theatre has seen him allied with the RSC, the Globe and the Royal Court. Yet this is the first time he has worked on a project that has allowed him to explore Catholicism overtly. He describes his faith as a personal and private journey, but he is very happy, he says, to now be sharing the inspirational story of an extraordinary saint.

Iñigo runs at the Pleasance until June 15. For more information and to book, go here. The full text of the play is available to buy here.

This article first appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Herald magazine (29/5/15).

Take up our special subscription offer – 12 issues currently available for just £12!