Paul Bright’s Justified Sinner

Those expecting to see a stage performance of James Hogg’s famous novel may be gravely disappointed, but those who remember this splendid pastiche from 2 years ago at Summerhall will be interested to see how it fares occupying the “death slot” of Scottish theatre at the official Edinburgh Festival.

This affectionate tribute to theatre in Scotland – seen as proud, angry, defiant, complex, original, screwed-up and sheer bloody minded – tells the story of a production that allegedly occupied this so-called “death slot” in 1963.

It’s a trip down false memory lane performed with great aplomb by lone actor George Anton, backed by ancient spotty video film, and interviews with various elder luminaries of the Scottish scene. What is art if not deception, he tells us, and what is acting if not lying. He proceeds to mix his own (authentic) acting history with the extravagant story of 80’s theatre director Paul Bright, a man possessed by artistic demons, as obsessed and divided as the Justified Sinner himself, the character who so consumed his energies. George Anton has nearly 2 concentrated hours to remind us and convince us of the sheer dynamism (and pretention) that could be found in Scotland’s theatre scene at that time. If Paul Bright did not express the hyperbolic extravagant views ascribed to him, someone, somewhere, in some pub probably did.

This revival of the co-production between National Theatre of Scotland, Summerhall and Tramway stands up well for local audiences, but might leave the international visitors to Festival drama slightly bamboozled. If so, they would do well to read the cast list at the end film of this production and appreciate the key role played so convincingly by Owen Whitelaw.
Queen’s Hall 8pm until August 30th


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