Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner – Dublin Theatre Festival Review

Paul Bright's Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner | Abbey Theatre, on the Peacock Stage | Oct 7 – 11

In the 1980s, Paul Bright was something of an enfant terrible in Scottish theatre. He was obsessed with a book written by James Hogg in 1824 called ‘Confessions of a Justified Sinner’. It is a very advanced novel for its time, and uses many conceits of modern literature. Bright set about making a theatre adaptation of the novel in several parts. These adaptations were very experimental, with the first ending in a sectarian riot in a pub and the second taking place on a mountain top. These pieces were only seen by a handful of people, but gained legendary status amongst young Scottish theatre makers of the time. This is the story of Bright’s life and the adaptation of the novel told from the perspective of his main actor and friend, George Anton.

A few years ago, a box was sent to George’s agent from an unknown sender. George eventually picked up the box, and was fascinated and consumed by the contents. It was some of the last remaining artifacts of Paul Bright, who had died at the age of 47. George set about putting together a collection of memorabilia to form an exhibition of Bright’s theatrical project. This is what greets you when you arrive in the Peacock, with the foyer of the theatre converted into a museum space to show the various artifacts. These mean little to you before you see the piece, but after you leave the theatre, the various items have a deeper meaning.

The story is told as a reminiscence by Anton, broken into the stages of the novel. Bright was a young, precocious talent as a director, filled with ideas and demanding evolution at every step. He was wildly ambitious and pretentious, having just left art college after declaring painting was dead, and there are many tales of their wild excess. While George is himself on the stage, he is very much performing, and he bounds around filled with emotion for his lost friend.

There are photos, film and audio clips to help fill out the character of Bright, who comes across as mysterious and more myth than man. It is a piece that dwells on the abandon of youth, the years where anything seemed possible, and how it all slips away so easily. A melancholy tale of time lost and dreams unfulfilled.

Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner | Abbey Theatre, on the Peacock Stage | Oct 7 – 11

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