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Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The Gospel according to Jesus, Queen of Heaven

Jo Clifford

Genre: Solo Show

Venue: Artspace@st marks 


Low Down

Jo Clifford, in a Unitarian church, gives us both a sermon and a lesson in how transgender is to be accepted whilst suggesting that transgender was as prolific in the days of the gospels as now. It is a compelling case that is as much about belief as religion.  


Jo Clifford enters the church from behind us. She takes us through a sermon before stopping to talk directly to us about the need to understand that transgender people walked the earth with her. As a god-like figure Clifford then retells the gospel with the slant from her perspective as Jesus, Queen of Heaven. From the Marriage Feast of Cana to the stoning of the adultress we are treated to parables that are familiar in this setting though their new telling does not alter the message nor the impact of such great tales.

This is a tremendous exercise in trying to give people an opportunity to understand belief whilst also accepting diversity. That the church did not fall down, the protesters did not arrive and the fireworks came only from the Tattoo this was a late night revel in engaging the mind. There were parts of this that have as explosive ideas and ideals as any religion and it would be easy to be carried away on a wave of political correctness and just swim along in the tale of this journey but it is as a piece of theatre that it must be judged.

But before we do that, let us applaud the Unitarian Church at St Marks. Whilst many other churches would be running buses to this to protest against this performance, they have, in the spirit of Unitarianism embraced the dialogue. It strikes me as being very Christian of them.

Jo Clifford is a fantastic storyteller. You get gripped by her manner and her quiet yet assertive tones. Based on what I consider to be a fantastic script this is theatre aiming to be at the highest level for a one woman show. It was, however a little ponderous for me. I can handle the enormity of what is being said, have no issue with being involved through taking the bread and wine as part of the ceremony or making new friends before whilst standing on the steps of the church and watching the fireworks. I don’t need massive pauses to light candles to consider things and some of the audience got a bit fidgety.

The use of the space was good and being in a church probably stopped a few people from getting too distracted. The candles, bread and wine were well judged as was the use and non-use of the lighting.

This was a dialectic which was both provocative and challenging. The setting of the church underlined the serious nature and the overwhelming legitimacy of the cause. I just wanted less time to consider and to hear much more. Clifford has the ability to tell more and that next piece will be eagerly anticipated.