PAUL BRIGHT’S CONFESSIONS OF A JUSTIIFIED SINNER
by Pamela Carter.
Queen’s Hall Clerk Street To 22 August 2015.
Runs 1hr 55min No interval.
Proving James Hogg and Paul Bright were really made for each other.
Some of what you hear in this piece is documented truth. Some is well-documented fiction. Some is assertion. It might be enough to make you wonder if, with modern technology, any evidence can be certified reliable. And then to wonder how genuine the certificate might be.
“The truest poetry,” claimed Shakespeare’s Touchstone in As You Like It, “is the most feigning”. And inasmuch as anything recounted by actor George Anton, in his account of an ambitious theatre project, did not happen, it would leave Scottish theatre late last century the poorer.
Published in 1824, James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner claimed to be factual, a device often used by authors as fiction turned from romance to realism. No manuscript survives, while the book is full of games and wild invention.
At issue here is a six-part adaptation by ferociously unconventional young Scottish theatre-maker Paul Bright who briefly burned bright around 1980 before suddenly disappearing. After his death abroad, a box of papers on the Hogg project were sent to Anton, who describes how he investigated a production which involved him in half its six episodes, and which took place over several years, among other locations in a Glasgow pub, as a non-stop nine-hours-plus Edinburgh Festival event and in a Scottish country home (hired but, inevitably, never paid-for).
There are filmed excerpts and interviews with Scottish theatre luminaries talking about Bright and his project. And it’s very much about Scotland’s theatre; the production, revived for this brief Festival run, originates with the National Theatre Scotland.
What’s the truth behind it? I can’t believe the Queen’s Hall, used from 11am-1pm daily in Edinburgh Festivals since 1979, was also home to a chaotic show starting at 2pm. Yet the 1979 Fringe saw Ken Campbell’s 22-hour The Warp, wayward and chaotic in subject and presentation. And Peter Brook’s (very organised) eight-hour Mahabharata opened the Tramway as a performance space around then.
Thorough documentation accompanies performances. How much of this actually happened each audience member can determine. It’s certainly true to the spirit of a teeming age of Scottish theatre.
Anton: George Anton.
Paul Bright: Owen Whitelaw.
Young George Anton: Lorne McFadyen.
Garret Philips: Alasdair Hankinson.
NB Presenter: Murray Wason.
On-screen interviewees: Alison Peebles, Di Robson, Annie Griffin, Katie Mitchell, Giles Havergal, Tim Crouch.
Director: Stewart Laing.
Visual Artists: Robbie Thomson, Jack Wrigley.
Lighting: Mike Brookes.
Cinematographers: Christopher Doyle, Shiona McCubbin.