Friday, 14 February 2014

Faith and desire

It's time to gear up the publicity machine. Well, let's be honest, it's more like a pedalbike with a broken chain. What I mean is I have to find time in my day to not only rehearse with the cast and run my book business and, since I'm a stay at home worker, do some housework while the Other Half braves the winds and rain to get to and from work, but also to promote Angel & Now We Are Pope, which opens at the London Theatre New Cross on 18th March. Details of the production for those reading this post no later than 23rd March 2014 can be found here; details for those reading this post after that date are here.

Francis, not Hadrian . . . 
The double-bill of one-man plays which I have written and am directing (those of you who already know this should probably skip to the next paragraph) focus on two very different Roman Catholics. In Angel a fictional priest, albeit based on someone I met many years ago, is torn between his faith and sexual desire. In Now We Are Pope, the writer Frederick Rolfe, who died in Venice in 1913, relives his best-known novel, Hadrian VII, in which an Englishman becomes Pope, while also enjoying the intimate company of young gondoliers.

I am hoping that Catholics who hear of the plays will curious to see how I treat these characters and how they respond to the conflict between faith and the celibacy that the priesthood imposes. In Angel the conflict is clear. Here is a man with a powerful sex drive - a drive directed towards adults, by the way - who must nonetheless suppress it. What strains does this impose upon him? How does he resolve the conflicting needs of body and soul?

Now We Are Pope focuses less on that conflict, although Rolfe himself was aware of it and responded in his own manner. There the emphasis is more on the writer's challenging personality and his narrow vision of the world. In that play I am more interested in the question whether this is a man who should have been Pope, a man to be respected or condemned?

It's no secret for those who have wandered through my various websites that I am an atheist. But that does not mean that my views on the (non-)existence of God play any part in either play. In my fiction and drama I have never wanted to promote any world view. What I want to do is reveal the complexity of human character, to understand, and help my readers and audience understand, what motivates individuals. In Angel, the (non-) existence of God is irrelevant; what matters is the response of one believer to the impossible demands placed upon him. In Now We Are Pope, Rolfe's fantasy of being Pontiff is merely one facet of a complex character that I hope is gradually revealed as the play progresses.

With these thoughts in mind I have spent several hours yesterday and today emailing and posting notices to Catholic churches, organisations and publications across London, in the hope that they will come to the plays - and stay afterwards to debate with me the issues that arise. Will my efforts be successful? I'll let you know, but in the meantime, if you are of a religious bent, please pass on this post to others. I hope to see you, and them, there.

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