Tron Theatre, Glasgow
The world has changed in the decade since Jo Clifford first performed The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven, her trans reimagining of the gospels, and not always in a good way. One of the better changes has been the way the play has travelled the world in a multitude of languages and interpretations. The worst is how some of those presenting the play have risked life and limb just by performing it.
Such was the case with Renata Carvalho, when she opened Natalia Mallo’s production of Clifford’s play in Brazil. A multitude of law suits and a new right wing government has made any further performances there in the foreseeable future unlikely. This is an undoubted travesty, as anyone lucky enough to witness Carvalho’s one-night-only Glasgow date as part of a tenth anniversary mini-season celebration of Clifford’s play will testify to.
Arriving onstage in a jumble sale dress, carrying a vanity case and accompanied by the sort of club sounds you might hear booming in Ryan Murphy’s trans-based TV drama, Pose, Carvalho’s Jesus is a playful messiah, a waspish sprite who can raise herself up to Heaven on the dancefloor as much as anywhere else. Performed in Portuguese with English surtitles projected onto the back of the stage, there’s a glorious force to Carvalho, who conspires with and confides in her congregation with a gossipy candour.
Clifford’s script is more prayer than play, staying faithful to its biblical source and translating it into the sparest of poetry made in her own image. Carvalho takes this and runs with it, donning a sparkly frock for the occasion as she brings the parables bang up to date. When sharing the sacraments, she brings home the full physical meaning of the devouring of the body and blood. It’s a meal served with joy, and we lap it up with wonder.
The Herald, October 31st 2019