Chichester's Festival Theatre made for an unusual birthday treat
venue. 'The Last Confession', which is currently being staged there,
is an unusual play; a mix of the sacred and profane; fact and fiction, power
and politics and religion and mammon.
Vatican's Cardinal Benelli, who is perceived as the principal
popemaker in 1978, is played brilliantly by David Suchet of
Inspector Poirot fame.
Great acting on stage of his calibre is riveting to
watch/lose oneself in.
The play centres on the all too brief, only 33 days,
papacy of Cardinal Luciani in that year as Pope John Paul I. Cardinal
Luciani aka Pope John Paul I, as acted by Richard O'Callaghan, bears a
striking resemblance to Wimbledon's Bishop Howard Tripp.
The Play begins and ends with David Suchet's confession being
heard by a high ranking Vatican priest.
The rumours about John Paul I having been murdered
are rather like the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 but
although the actual murder of the pontiff in 1978 seems as unlikely
as the FBI being responsible for 9/11,
the play does throw open the possibility that the Curia's wheeling
and dealing along with the machinations by the likes of
of Bishop Marcinkus and Roberto Calvi, were the death of poor old
loveable JP I.
The stage scenery is brilliant as are the costumes depicting
the scarlets, purples and blacks of the Roman Vatican dress code.
Human touches included JP I's exasparation about ersatz Vatican
coffee, Sister Vincenza's love and loyalty extending
to securing a decent coffee maker for him and his
refusal to countenace all the pomp and circumstance that
the three tiered papal tiara had previously implied.
The apparent reluctance
of the Curia in 1978 to embrace the changes supposed to
be being brought about by the second Vatican Council in the 1960s,
still resonates today