If you enjoy spirited debate and relish doctrinal controversy you should appreciate â€œThe Christiansâ€ on till 30th August at the Traverse Theatre. The action is set in a vast American evangelical church where a community choir grouped under a large cross start off proceedings with two fairly long, slightly off key gospel hymns.
When Pastor Paul (William Gaminara) appears and exhorts us to bow our heads, the unwary in the audience do so. When he proceeds to deliver a sermon, we feel the usual eyes-glazed reaction, so church-like is the setting. Then, as we listen to his certainties, his dogmatism, and his absolute conviction that the Lord has indeed spoken to him the critical faculties kick in, and we appreciate the power of his performance.
Gaminara radiates belief and quotes Biblical texts in profusion to back the validity of his latest Damascene revelation. This â€œrevelationâ€ is a fascinating catalyst, and Stefan Adegbola as the associate pastor who refutes the argument is equally robust and charismatic. He too just knows that the Lord is on his side. The ensuing action of the play is thought provoking, and the topic in dispute is indeed of abiding interest to most people – no spoiler here!
That the church is big business and a very successful money making enterprise is squarely acknowledged, as is the fact that schism leads to loss of earnings. More importantly, that schism also destroys relationships is very much part of this play – too much certainty leads to intolerance, the â€œspace betweenâ€ becomes impossible to navigate.
Lucy Ellinson as the questioning congregation member serves to remind us who all this is supposed to be about – the poor, the lonely, the disaffected. At the end of the play I guarantee youâ€™ll start talking – this debate has certainly no finite conclusion!
Traverse 1 until August 30th