Review: Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Paul Bright's Confessions of a Justified Sinner
Paul Bright's Confessions of a Justified Sinner
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I KNEW Paul Bright in the 1980s – we were team-mates in the Chester Rugby pack and he was a promising young second row. I’ve not seen him for years but I presume he’s doing ok.

* *

Queen’s Hall, Clerk Street

The Paul Bright of this production was a revolutionary Scottish actor/director whose plans for a production of James Hogg’s Edinburgh-set masterpiece Confessions of a Justified Sinner were eventually abandoned and left unfinished before his untimely death in 2010.

Or so we are led to believe, because the difference between these two Paul Brights is only the one I knew was a real person and the whole show is not a tribute to a forgotten giant of Scottish creativity but a construction designed to challenge notions of truth and reality in the same way as the novel.

The narrator, in this case real-life actor George Anton, is therefore every bit as unreliable as the central character of the novel and the entire Bright saga turns out to be a theatrical interpretation of the book.

It’s obvious virtually from the start that all is not what it seems, with a yarn about a group of actors assembled by Bright supposedly playing out the toasting of the Union in 1707 from the book in a Celtic pub in Glasgow’s East End on the day of an Old Firm game.

The footage of the ensuing ‘riot’ is too obviously made up to be believable as anyone who has seen football trouble will testify.

The show was well-received when it was first performed two years ago but such an introspective study of the place of art in our perceptions of reality is just the kind of stuff many who spend their lives in the theatre lap up.

But it was too much for others last night and there were regular departures well before the end; it takes a fair degree of tedium for more than one person to walk out right in front of the stage.

I didn’t blame them. That Anton’s acting is good is beyond doubt, but the material he’s working with is on the wrong side of pretentious and reveals very little except how smart writer Pamela Carter and director Stewart Laing must think they are.

What a wheeze all the real theatrical figures who contributed spoof interviews must have thought it was.

For all the artifice and trickery to make us believe in the tragedy of the Bright character, in the end I really didn’t care.

But then again, the real Paul Bright I knew was a genuine bloke.

Until August 22