Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Soul in the Machine

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It's been quite a long time since I've blogged on here about the excellent work of Exeter YMCA. With me now firmly settled in Yeovil, my trips to Exeter have become sporadic at best, but I do my utmost to keep at least faintly in touch with what the charity is up to. And their latest big event, which happens next month, is something I strongly recommend you check out.

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On May 21st, Exeter YMCA will be welcoming the Saltmine Theatre Company to perform The Soul in the Machine, a new production about YMCA founder George Williams. The play traces Williams' own life, from his early childhood in Bridgwater to his education in Tiverton (where I used to work) and his formative years in London. Here his exposure to the great social deprivation, lack of support for young men and the need for Christian renewal in Victorian Britain led him to found the Young Men's Christian Association in 1844.
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Today the YMCA's activities are broader and different in shape in many respects compared to Williams' original vision, but at its heart its mission and values are the same: to heal this broken world through God's work, and to help people where there is neither help nor hope to be found. While Williams' own words resonated strongly in the age of steam and coal, they speak every bit as powerfully to our society. His fears for a world where people are slaves to mechanisation, a world which crushes and eradicates any sense of purpose as opposed to function, point to what is needed in our own society: a realisation of just how crucial the spiritual dimension is to understanding our world, our role in it and how to help each other.
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I've had the pleasure of seeing Saltmine perform on stage only once: a production of C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, adapted by Riding Lights Theatre Company's brilliant playwright Nigel Forde. While my familiarity with Saltmine's work is therefore less so than that of Riding Lights, this is a production that will inspire and challenge you. Like all the best theatre, it will bring forth ideas which you never considered in depth before and leave you changed as a result. Check out the trailer:
The Soul in the Machine will be perfomed at Belmont Chapel in Exeter on May 21st from 7pm. Tickets are £10 and can be booked online here; for more information call Bethan Spencer on 01392 410530 or email Bethan.spencer@ymcaexeter.org.uk. If you can't make the Exeter show, don't despair: the production is touring from May 5th, including a date in London on May 14th, and will be heading to the Edinburgh Festival in August. You can find all the details for future dates on the Saltmine website here.

Daniel

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