The Theatreguide.London Review
can see in Love The Sinner the vague outline of the play Drew Pautz
wanted to write, about how religious faith is hard and demanding, and
not the cosy, comfortable thing the Church of England sometimes
presents it as.
written it. Love The Sinner is a loose collection of sketches for
scenes and sketches for characters, desperately searching for a core
and continuity that just aren't there.
promisingly, with a scene set at a Church conference in Africa. An
African bishop objects to a mealy-mouthed liberal statement on
homosexuality, and argues eloquently and well that the Church has to
stand for something, to be a haven of consistency for its parishioners
rather than trying to follow every social and moral fashion.
a good debate,
but unfortunately it and most of the characters in the scene are
immediately dropped. Instead, Pautz chooses to follow the least
significant character in the scene, the lay worker Michael, and Joseph,
the polite African waiter who delivered the coffee.
turns out that
Joseph moonlights as rent boy, and the second scene finds him
post-coitally changing personality completely, to threaten and
blackmail Michael into helping him get to England.
in this scene is believable, from the situation to either character's
behaviour, and the playwright only gets out of it through the
fortuitous entrance of the second-least significant character from the
Michael has problems with his wife, not over Africa, but over her
ticking biological clock and the squirrels in the attic, and with the
employees at his envelope-making plant, who are inexplicably upset over
his plan to introduce a profitable sideline in church donation
between scenes Michael becomes a born-again Jesus freak. And then
Joseph reappears, and suffice to say that just about nothing that
happens afterwards is any more believable than what came before.
his characters is unclear - is Joseph a villain or just doing what he
has to to reach a better life? Is Michael undergoing a spiritual crisis
or just a loony? Is the English bishop who reappears in a final scene a
sincere pastoral shepherd or a platitude-mouthing fraud?
it is striking
that in a play that questions everyone's perceptions of God, there is
no sense at all that He is out there in any form.
Michael and Fiston Barek as Joseph work desperately to make sense out
of their characters, and fail honourably because they just haven't been
given the material to work with.
strong as the African bishop in the first scene, and Ian Redford as the
kindly English bishop and Scott Handy as his hard-nosed secretary
create a few moments of believability in the last scene.
Director Matthew Dunster is unable to make any two scenes seem to come out of the same play or any of the characters seem the same people from one scene to the next.
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Love The Sinner - National Theatre 2010