Friday, 9 May 2014

'The Last Confession' and 'Don Quichotte'

Circumstances conspired so that I was given tickets for two successive evenings this past week: one for the opera and one for the theatre. These were two very different productions in almost every way.

Massenet's Don Quichotte (based on Cervantes' Don Quixote) is a masterful expression of the idealism and the grit necessary to pursue what is pure and noble despite the opposition and failures we all face in life. Written by an aging Massenet it is a poignant expression of concern for the loss of individual agency in those of us who are moving into the later stages of life.

Cardinal Giovanni Benelli 1921 -1982,
Archbishop of Florence 

On the other hand, the cynical and subversive Last Confession by Roger Crane currently touring the globe with actor David Suchet ('Poirot' in the British TV production) is the very antithesis of the celebration of hope and high ideals.  

From first to last Last Confession is a thinly veiled attempt to undermine the reputation, ministry and organization of the Catholic Church through innuendo, rumour, blatant mockery and fact-less accusation.

While never mentioning the "Masonic connection" (A London lawyer is the author. Is there a connection?) the play resorts to hearsay related to the unknown details surrounding the untimely death of Pope John Paul I.  In the spirit of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" the play makes accusations and charges without proven fact and ultimately reveals its animus to the papal successor and now canonized saint, St John Paul II.

St. John Paul and Cardinal Benelli

Why Suchet took on this role in the pricey world-wide production, which relies upon a huge advertising budget, is a good question.  The way Suchet, while playing a cardinal, spits out  references to the Catholic Church with a distinctly British negative tone makes one wonder if there is even a small sense in which the play could give a fair account of the Church's reality with which the script has so little connection and even less understanding.

In contrast, the music, decor and even the live animals in the COC production of Don Quichotte are proof that interest in principle and spiritual virtue is not dead. Even the costuming was accurate, unlike that of the Last Confession. The costumes and staging in the latter show little acquaintance with clerical dress, liturgy or the real details of Vatican protocol.  In all, "smear job" is the descriptor which comes to mind.

As one thoughtful reviewer concluded:

"The problems with the play are rooted in the script, not in Jonathan Church’s excellent production. One would think that in addition to being ripe for dramatization, the topic of murder at the Vatican offers an ideal opportunity to present a rich, nuanced investigation of the inner workings of one of the world’s oldest institutions. 

Cardinal Ratzinger ( Benedict XVI) with Cardinal Benelli

However, Crane’s script relies heavily on an imagined and, frankly, anachronistic liberal-conservative political split between the Cardinals that does not ring true, and the absence of any honest attempt to deal with the question of spirituality renders attempts to humanize the priests completely flat. As cynical as Crane is about the papacy, presenting the institution as he does, as largely devoid of faith, is akin to writing a play about J.S. Bach that only rarely mentions musicit just doesn't make sense. It is a true shame that a production with such superb talent at its disposal so completely lacks soul."   

A.H. -  Theatromania


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