Edinburgh Festival `99: Fringe Theatre - Corpus Christi: Last humiliation of Christ
Bedlam Theatre Venue 49 (0131-225 9893) 8pm, to 28 Aug
Wednesday 11 August 1999
At one point, scenes threatened to become inflammatory as cries of "Nazis" went up from theatregoers - it was a drama that came near to eclipsing the offensive banality of what was eventually to be revealed inside.
Christ's capacity for arousing heartfelt debate will obviously be sparked off by reworkings of his life. Terrence McNally's appropriation of his story to make points about homosexuality was as certain to goad traditionalists into moral outrage as giving the Pope condoms for his birthday.
This is not to say that McNally has taken a cynically sensationalist stance, for there are evidently interesting and painful parallels between those who have experienced anti-homosexual prejudice and a young man who has been martyred after challenging a hostile society with his reinterpretation of its beliefs and customs.
The real problem is that the play's polemic potential is left behind at the starting line, and we are treated instead to two hours of what is mildly entertaining campery.
Mel Raido plays Jesus - or Joshua, as he is known in this play - a young boy growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, who experiences the turning point in his sexuality at the high-school prom, when Judas (Stephen Billington) suddenly seems a lot more attractive than all the girls.
Once he has come to terms with his homosexuality, he then has to deal with being the Son of God, and is taken out into the desert to be tempted by the Devil (who is disguised as James Dean).
The crux of his controversial existence comes when he publicly blesses a gay marriage - and is arrested and then put to death for promoting "immoral" values.
The most astounding aspect of this play is that McNally has taken a powerful story and fundamental issues, and then pulped them into a parade of unamusing anachronisms and shallow analogies. He has neither the gift for language nor the sense of dramatic structure to make Corpus Christi anything more than a lazy rewrite of the Gospels.
Stephen Henry's production goes some way towards saving the evening - the cast of attractive young men forms a strong ensemble, and they ekes what they can out of the flimsy script on offer.
There is also no doubt that Mel Raido - who made an excellent Utrillo in Patrice Chaplin's Into the Darkness Laughing - has the magnetic presence necessary to play such a charismatic role. But he really ought to go and look for a script that's dignified by something better than its opponents' bigotry.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 4 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
Lucy, film review: Scarlett Johansson will blow your mind in Luc Besson's complex thriller
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw
Miley Cyrus concert banned on morality grounds in the Dominican Republic
The Hateful Eight trailer: Teaser for Quentin Tarantino film leaks early
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile