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Theatre review: Love the Sinner 
1st-Jun-2010 11:04 pm
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Let's hope the Cottesloe theatre gets its mojo back soon where new plays are concerned, because its last couple of premieres haven't really set the world alight. Love the Sinner is Drew Pautz's play about the Church and, er. Mostly it's about the Church and its attitude to homosexuality, but there's also nods to the Church and its relevance in British identity, it's responses to potential scandal, the legacy of having converted Africa to Christianity... As seems to be a recurring theme in recent "issue"-based plays, the writer seems keen to cover all possible bases, but just ends up with something confused. Where theatre that's meant to make you think is concerned, I'd much rather see something like A Day at the Racists for example, that's more single-minded and whose politics you could more easily pick holes in, but which is more successful as a piece of theatre.

Love the Sinner opens in a hotel in an unnamed African country, where a number of Anglican bishops are having a conference to decide on some points of Church policy. The subject of the discussion may be homosexuality, but the main theme to start with is that, having converted much of the continent to Christianity, the Church now has to take on board the views of African Christians, who are not as progressive as some of those present - exemplified by a local bishop (Louis Mahoney) keen to derail any talks of being more accepting of homosexuality. After this first half-hour though the focus shifts to Michael (Jonathan Cullen,) a volunteer who before leaving the conference has sex with a hotel porter, Joseph (Fiston Barek,) who later turns up in the UK to the surprise of Michael's wife (Charlotte Randle.) While the focus shifts wildly, the tone doesn't, especially in the first act in which the actors have to try and sustain a constant level of mild hysteria. It looks, and consequently feels, exhausting, and does nothing for pacing - some of the blame for this should probably go to director Matthew Dunster, although I'm not sure exactly what he could have done. The cast are uniformly good at least, and Jonathan Cullen must have got jealous all those months playing Dan Radcliffe's dad in Equus, because he gets his very ownFULL-FRONTAL MALE NUDITY ALERT!here. (He and DanRad wouldn't pass for father and son in all respects, it turns out.) When comic touches do come they're very good (Nancy Crane has a nice scene-stealing moment in the second act) but they're too few and far between to really give this life, as it lurches towards an inevitably open-ended conclusion. Unusually for the National, the (cheaper than usual, to be fair) programme has none of the usual supporting articles and reading material - maybe the theatre, like me, couldn't figure out what the play was actually about, so didn't know what to write about it?

Love the Sinner by Drew Pautz is booking until the 10th of July at the National Theatre's Cottesloe.
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