By Stephen Green
Through the intervention of Almighty God, by means of the BBC, and at the invitation of director Zsuzsi Lindsay, I saw the play
last Friday night. I am not going to pass any comment on the quality of the performances. Whether
was played well or badly in
is hardly the point for me. Whether it is even a good play is not something I can pass comment on, although I can see it is a good piece of homosexual propaganda. The question is, was it blasphemous? Was it valid to protest about? The answer is yes on both counts. It was just as blasphemous as playwright Terrence McNally boasts it is in his introduction to the script. I could hardly believe how offensive, insulting, crass and disgusting it was as well.
OK, so why did I watch it to the bitter end? Why did I put myself through that? So no-one could ever say to me again: "You haven't even seen it." So I would know. So I could file a complaint for blasphemy. So I could meet the cast and Zsuzsi afterwards. So I could take Zsuzsi at her word. She said before it opened: "We know not everyone is going to like this play. That's the whole point." Simon the Canaanite (played by Rob Rollings) said at the end (as part of the script): "If we have offended, so be it." If that was your intention, guys, you certainly achieved it. But offending me is one thing. Offending Almighty God is quite another.
The play portrays Jesus (Joshua in the play) as a promiscuous homosexual, in more ways than I really want to go into just now. One of the milder was the obligatory 'gay kiss' when Joshua (Ayman Oghanna) was seduced by Judas (Nicholas Crumb). Simon spoke of a sexual experience with Joshua. Joshua himself said he had 'lain with' all the disciples. He is finally crucified in the play as 'King of the Queers.'
is plainly and obviously blasphemous on any one of those points alone, and the cast were faithful to the script.
In this play we did not see the sinless son of God working the perfect will of His Almighty Father. Sometimes Joshua/Jesus’ miracles worked and sometimes they didn't. The centurion (Marco Biagi) had a sick wife, not a servant, who instead of living when Joshua gave the word, died. Jesus was depicted as at odds with His Father over that. God (Edward Whitley - the 13 actors playing Joshua and his disciples play other parts during the course of the play) spoke in a silly booming voice and denied He is omnipotent and omnipresent. Joshua encouraged his disciples to get drunk and blessed a 'gay marriage' between Bartholomew (Chris Nemes) and James (Jeremy Taylor). There was much more, for example the corrupt use of the Bible by Judas in the crucifixion scene, meshing Biblical truth with invention, that was so obviously designed to offend and insult Christians and blaspheme Almighty God and the Scriptures that it is pointless to deny the fact.
MCNALLY'S TARGET IS CHRISTIANTY
Apart from that, the grotesque portrayal of Mary, the mother of the Lord, (Jeremy Taylor) as a drunken, battered wife, putting Joseph (Simon Mitchel) up as a domineering wife-beater, was specifically designed to offend Catholics. I must say that the characterisation of a Roman Catholic priest (Rosie Oliphant) as a sadist and all nuns as creepy or vindictive offended me even though I am not a Catholic.
There was also a pastiche of praying the 'sinners prayer' by Lazarus (Marie McNulty) and of driving out demons, making it clear that McNally's target is not Catholicism or evangelicalism but what he sees as Christianity, in total. McNally thrashes around, trying to assault as many popular symbols of the Christian faith as he can. One strange exception was that the whole cast prayed the Lord's Prayer in all seriousness facing the audience, and it must be said in fairness that some parts of the true Christian message broke through in other places. Sadly, like the curate's egg, a few good parts did not make the whole of it anything but rotten.
John (Andrew Lane), Joshua/Jesus and God all proclaimed the New Age concept that all men are divine, not that men are human and sinful and need a redeemer, as Christianity teaches. There was a spiteful, vicious parody of the Last Supper, in which Philip (Simon Mitchel) joked "Take this saltshaker. It is my life," and Peter (Barney Wybes) responded "Eat this knife. It is my gallbladder" while the other apostles fell about laughing over the idea that bread and wine could represent Joshua's /Jesus’ body and blood. The fact is, this is a play which was written, not out of love as is claimed, but out of blind, ignorant, obsessive hatred for the Christian faith in general and its condemnation of homosexual activity very much in particular.
Then there was the obscenity. From the aural voyeurism of hearing copulating couples encouraging each other in adjoining rooms as Mary gives birth in a motel, to the crucifixion scene which ends the play, expletives and explicit sexual references, most but not all of them homosexual, swamp the play to knee height. I simply do not see why, even when he has decided to write a blasphemous play claiming Jesus was homosexual, that it is either funny, necessary or even grown-up for a playwright to make his cast and audience wade through filth at the same time. That is, unless it's not a very good play in the first place and you have do something rather daring to get attention.
Which brings me to the actors themselves. They cannot distance themselves from the characters they have played or from the play itself, and the stain of the sin of blasphemy clings to all of them. But apart from that, the string of expletives given to Andrew (Sofia McKinnen), who gets to use the F-word most, left me stunned. You would not hear such a torrent of filth on a building site, and I know that from experience. There we were in the middle of a town named after that same holy man of God, listening to a young girl speaking obscenity after obscenity in his name. What an insult to the memory of St Andrew, in
itself. I just hope her parents were not there to hear their daughter degrade herself like that.
I came away with a heavy heart and a deep burden for those young people who had directed and performed the play, and I don't quite know why. I met them only briefly at the end of the performance. They listened to me quietly as I told them how offensive and insulting I had found the play. There is no end of kids going wrong, getting into sin and depravity just as bad in its way. Why bother about these? What is different about them? They seemed a pleasant enough group of normally polite young people but they have become enmeshed in an evil the extent of which they may or may not understand. Leaving the blasphemy on one side for a moment, is what I feel for them something to do with seeing young souls chasing a false religious dream? Is it because I saw them as themselves on stage and not them in their characters? Is it because I have actually spoken to them, and heard something from them? Is it because they are about the same age as my own children? Whatever it is, I weep for them and fear for them. Actions have consequences. And please God I won't stop praying for them.
Stephen Green, 15th December 2004