His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth
reviewed by Neville Cohn
To experience Roger Crane‘s play The Last Confession is to be drawn into a unique and
fascinating world which is as mysterious as it is intriguing, an all male environment in which
power play is the order of the day. Into this curious world in which subtle backstabbing is a highly
developed art, comes a newly elected pope who is strikingly different to all those who went before
He takes the name John Paul and is quickly dubbed The Smiling Pope. It is undeniable that at one
level, he seems a perpetually beaming innocent. But behind this facade is a shrewd judge of men
determined to restructure the church for the better.
Unsurprisingly, this alarms the Curia, that secretive ring of clerics that surrounds the pontiff
perpetually. These men fear that their world of influence is imperilled. Then, little more than a
month in the job, Pope John Paul 1 is found dead in bed. Ever since, there have been swirling rumours about how the Pontiff met his end.
David Suchet, best known for his TV role as Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famous little Belgian detective, is a central figure. And his quiet, unobtrusive presence dominates the production.
Sporting a tiny, pale mauve skull cap in Act 1, he could as easily pass as a rabbinical figure as a Catholic heavy weight. His every word was made meaningful.
In this production there are no weak links. It’s an ensemble piece, each character clearly defined, as scarlet robed cardinals as well as some lesser clerics and the Pope endeavour – for a variety of reasons to deal with the unsavoury goings on at the Vatican’s scandal ridden bank.
Richard O’Callaghan in the pivotal role of the luckless Pope John Paul I does wonders in giving point and meaning to the role. Donald Douglas is completely convincing as Pope Paul VI as is Philip Craig as the Confessor. And Stuart Milligan does wonders as the ethically challenged
A remarkable and rapidly adjustable all purpose set serves variously as a number of locations
within the Vatican with a few props – a table, a few chairs and the like.
Laurels to the backstage staff who skilfully, silently and rapidly moved set and props about in