The Hampstead Players 2009 Autumn Production

Thursday 26 - Saturday 28 November 2009

Hampstead Parish Church


The Hampstead Players' Autumn Production will be The Sacred Flame by Somerset Maugham, directed by John Willmer.

First performed in 1929, this powerful and dramatic play not only has a good story but also raises issues, including those arising from mercy killing, which are equally topical and challenging for a modern audience.

Thursday 26 November 2009 at 7.30pm
Friday 27 November 2009 at 7.30pm
Saturday 28 November 2009 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm

Tickets £10 /
Concessions £8
(Senior Citizens, Under 18s, Students, Unemployed)



Send a cheque made payable to The Hampstead Players, stating your preferred performance date, the number of tickets you require at each price, and your telephone number, to: Hampstead Players Box Office, Hampstead Parish Church, Church Row, London, NW3 6UU.



These bookings can be paid for by credit card using PayPal but a fee of £1.00 will be added to each booking.

Tickets will be held for collection at the Box Office prior to the performance. Please arrive in good time to collect them. If you would like them posted please supply a stamped, addressed envelope and allow ten days.


by W. Somerset Maugham

All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love
And feed his sacred flame.

This verse from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Love" appeared on the title page of the 1929 publication of this play by William Heinemann Ltd. Love has many forms with the power to move and stir us in different ways, reflected in this play. The passionate love of young newly weds, rooted in sex. The deeper and more mature love of those of those who have experienced the adversities of life, such as the suffering of themselves or others close to them. The pity and compassionate love for a disabled invalid. The love of a mother for her children, especially for one who has suffered. These weave together in this play to form a moving and powerful drama - and one which gives rise too to serious moral issues.

I will not reveal the plot. There may be those who do not know the play and would enjoy it more if they do not know its outcome in advance. There is a death which gives rise to questions. Was it natural? If not, was it suicide or murder? If murder, who committed it and why? However it occurred, what ought to be done about it? Would we agree today with the actions of the characters?

Some of Somerset Maugham's plays have dated and not been seen for many years, though his short stories have remained more popular. This play of 1929 was set in very different times from ours. Behaviour and the moral code were stricter and more formal than those of today, though some might say that this was not without hypocrisy. In one respect the law was harsher. Suicide was still a crime. Anyone who assisted in suicide or committed euthanasia was guilty of murder. The penalty for murder was death. For the characters this was the context in which they acted.

Nevertheless it is striking how relevant and how similar some of the words and situations of this play, written 80 years ago, are to those of today. Take this example. One of the characters, speaking of a time past in her life, says: "We attached more importance to chastity than we do now". How much more might this be said in 2009, looking back on the past? The moral issues raised by what happened, especially for Christians, are certainly still debated and argued over today as they would have been in 1929.

John Willmer