In a hotel conference room in Africa, leaders of the Church of England are in a heated discussion about the issue that is splitting the curch apart -- homosexuality. The Amrican bishop (female) weighs in in favor of inclusion. The African bishop is hard line. The archbishop won't take a stand and believes that issued can be resolved through discussion He's wrong on this one. During this conference that leads nowhere, Michael, a lay volunteer, is having an affair with Joseph, a young native bellhop. Michael is guilty enough about his homosexual activities and saw his fling as something he could leave at the hotel. Joseph, who is a bit of a loose cannon, has other ideas. He wants Michael to take him back to England. Michael is alternatiely baffled, frightened and angry at Joseph's sudden mood changes and threats.
Back in England, Michael has become more and more religious as a way to order the chaos of his sexual desire. His wife, who is frustrated and bitter what Michael's failure to meet her emotional and sexual needs wants a child enough to stick with an unsatisfactory marriage. At work, Michael's employees are tired of his increasing religiosity and mood swings. And, as expected, Joseph turns up at Michael's doorstep, bearing the scars of the flogging he received for his homosexuality and wanting Michael to help him get asylum in England. Michael waffles, as he always does, but sneaks Joseph into the church basement for a temporary home. There is no way to satisfy Joseph's changing demands. When the archbishop asks him what he wants, Joseph responds: "I want to be safe. I want a home. A healthy, normal family. Then I want to be a bishop. Like you." Joseph is a bit crazy, as much victimizer as victim. He tells Michael, "There are alwys consequences." He's living proof of that.
Michael is a fascinating character. Like the church, he is split apart over his homosexuality and tries to please irreconcilable factions. He wants to do right by everybody, but can't. Jonathan Cullen gives the performance of his long, distinguished career in this plum of a role. He is ably supported by young Fiston Barek, who is truly scary as Joseph, Charlotte Randle as Michael's frustrated wife and a large supporting cast, many of whom take on multiple roles. director Matthew Dunster has brought the best out of his cast, though I think the production didn't need to be so scenery heavy. The critics were mixed on this one, but I give it four stars.
LOVE THE SINNER by Drerw Paultz. Directed by Matthew Dunster. Royal National Theatre Cottesloe Theatre. May 22, 2010.