Theatre review: Love the Sinner

Posted on: 08 June 2010 by Mark O'haire

The crisis of religious belief in contemporary society is a subject often discussed on television but rarely dramatised in the theatre.

Now the situation has changed with Drew Pautz’s tense and provocative new play Love the Sinner, directed by Matthew Dunster.

Michael, a married man running a small business, accompanies a squabbling delegation of church leader to Africa as a lay volunteer. This group of international ecclesiastical figures contend the need for Christian doctrine to change with the times. Fierce theological debate demonstrates that what’s current thinking on one continent is abhorrent to another. Upstairs at the hotel a brief sexual encounter takes place between Joseph, a local porter, and Michael. Joseph wants Michael to help him but Michael feels compelled to refuse. Back in England, Joseph suddenly appears at Michael’s house, much to the shock of both him and his wife. Joseph’s confrontation forces Michael to face up to a series of agonising moral dilemmas that compromise his work, his marriage, and his faith, as he tries desperately to do the right thing.

Pautz’s slow burning but absorbing exploration of modern faith and morality, with deft, witty dialogue, considers what we may be willing to sacrifice, personally and in the public sphere, for what we believe to be right. It is realistically staged, moving swiftly from the public to the personal and back again in its study of characters and the difficult situations in which they find themselves.

Director Matthew Dunster draws striking performances from Jonathan Cullen as the repressed, troubled Michael, Charlotte Randle as his understandably irate wife, and newcomer Fiston Barek as the vulnerable Joseph who comes between them.

In all then this is topical, thought-provoking that repays close attention with a rewarding night in the theatre. 

By Laurence Green

Where: NT’s Cottesloe auditorium

When: Plays in repertory until 10 July

Box Office: (020) 7452 3000

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