dimanche 29 juillet 2007


11 July 2007
King's Head Theatre, Upper Street, N1

Jean Meslier, the Last Priest, was a French Catholic priest living in 17th century France. Meslier was a little-known hero of the enlightenment, living in the times of the French revolution.

Tom Cornford's production follows Jean as by day he conforms to the religious fundamentalism of the day, but by nights, in private, he passionately writes his legacy: a bitter text steeped in atheism. Meslier denies existence of the soul in this testament and calls religion "a castle in the air".

He is torn between the need to follow his conscience and his fear of discovery and being burnt alive.

Julian Bird is convincing as Meslier and takes on his persona. He portrays well the man torn between loyalty to his faith and his disbelief in the message he preaches every day.

But this play is really put together as a story of human nature, dealing with freedom, belief and rebellion. To some the priest may have appeared a coward, but yet he was brave enough to find love without God.

The dialogue is not always great, although the three actors perform well to take on five parts between them.

The subject of religious unrest is all around us today, and it is interesting to see a show striking a blow for secularism. However, you feel that the somewhat contrived plot means that the play never really gets to grips with its powerful topic.

An interesting idea which will no doubt attract controversy. - EMILY GOVAN

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