A play by P.H. Burton
The author writes: The title of the play is taken from the opening words of Dante's "Inferno": "In the middle of our life's journey I found myself in a dark wood because the straight way was lost." It tells of the crisis in the life of a young revivalist, David Rowlands. At the height of his fame he comes to preach in Llanddewi, a steel-town in South Wales. The play opens on a Saturday night, when his arrival in the town is eagerly awaited. He is to stay at the home of the Rev. John Roberts, whose wife, Ann, twelve years younger than her husband, is very strongly attracted to David; it transpires later that David is equally attracted to her.
A secondary theme is a political one: a local strike is imminent, and William Powell, the Communist leader of the Llanddewi branch of the steelworkers' union, feels that the visit of David Rowlands has been engineered by Henry Morgan, the manager of the steelworks, in the hope of influencing the men against striking.
A third, and the most important theme, tells of a growing conflict in the mind of David Rowlands: "I love power. When I am in the pulpit I revel in my power over the congregation, like a demagogue, like an actor. Every time that magic moment comes when I feel them in my hand to do with as I like, I am drunk with power... Spiritual power must come from spiritual grace... I am not worthy to be God's minister."
This third theme drew an interesting comment from a Welsh friend of mine, after I had finished writing the play. He told me this story of a well-known Welsh preacher of our own century: a member of his congregation said to him, "You preached a wonderful sermon this morning," and the preacher replied, "Yes, the Devil has already told me that."
(Second performance: Thursday at 7.0)
[Photo caption] John Roberts (David Markham) and his wife (Rachel Gurney) greet the visiting revivalist (David Peel)