The final show of our Edinburgh Fringe, and what a show to leave on. Focusing on a church pastor and the repercussions of a particular sermon, this was a very interesting collaboration from the GATE and the Traverse Theatre.
Performed with full choir, and church setting, this was a very strong piece of writing from Lucas Hnath and tremendous acting from its five stars; William Gaminara, Stefan Adegbola, David Calvitto, Jaye Griffiths, Lucy Ellinson – the latter we saw in the astonishing, ‘Grounded’.
Set in a mega church in America that has finally rid itself of debt, Pastor Paul delivers a sermon that is to change the course of his congregation’s fate and his own life. In the sermon in question, he suggests that we are all children of God and therefore everyone is welcome into God’s kingdom regardless of past sins. In tandem with this he basically debunks the existence of Hell. This sermon causes a furore when the associate pastor takes offence to it. What follows, is a slow dwindling of his followers, and a profound examination of the role of pastor, the role of the elders, and how tolerant Christianity (or anyone) really is.
The Gate have really built a triumph out of Lucas’s script. They have some extremely talented actors, and the staging is wonderful. Our only criticism here, lies with the choir. Whether it was the choice of music or the singers themselves, they slightly reduced what was on all other acounts a fantastic piece of theatre. Maybe they were only amateurs. In which case I certainly don’t wish to criticise any amateur singer who spends their spare time doing something so joyful as singing. But considering the piece opened with two songs straight in a row, that weren’t too lyrical in the first place and were backed by a synthetic organ, for them to be performed by amateur, seemingly unenthused singers, really made the opening fall a bit flat. I can only imagine the difference a professional gospel choir would have made…
Not to worry though, because as soon is it took off, this play really soared. We can’t wait to see it again back at the Gate. Well done to Lucas and the whole creative team for such a thought-provoking piece of theatre.
Highlight of the show – The congregant’s questioning of Pastor Paul.
Want to see it? The Christians – The Traverse Theatre – this Tuesday until Saturday at various times. Then again at the Gate Theatre in London – 8 September to 3 October.