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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Royal Lyceum theatre review

Published in The Guardian

Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
3 out of 5

The premise is worthy of Hollywood. A man believes that his place in heaven is secure, and that nothing – not even murder – will change that. Nearly 200 years before FlashForward, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner considered how our behaviour might be affected by knowing our own fate.

James Hogg's purpose in this landmark novel, however, was to satirise the doctrine of predestination. "What possibilities now that it is impossible to fall from the grace of God," says the mysterious tempter Gil-Martin to the young zealot Robert Wringhim, as Hogg savagely sends up the Calvinist notion that heaven has a preordained guest list. The man who most loudly proclaims his righteousness turns out to be the most dangerous of all.

Mark Thomson's adaptation emphasises the supernatural aspects of the story, setting it among Edinburgh's looming tombstones, with billows of mist drifting over Neil Murray's revolving set. It has the atmosphere of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and, indeed, Robert Louis Stevenson was influenced by the duality at the heart of Hogg's book. Of near-identical stature, Ryan Fletcher's Wringhim and Iain Robertson's Gil-Martin could be two sides of the same person.

On stage, the trail of murders recalls that of Macbeth, though Fletcher, with his wide-eyed uncertainty, is less driven by ambition than possessed. This makes him more like a Faust whose conquests give him no satisfaction, while his companion walks a parallel journey from slippery-smooth sophisticate to suicidal wretch. As ever, though, the devil gets the best tunes, and Gil-Martin remains a more interesting character than his one-dimensional adversaries who have right on their side but rarely get much pleasure from it.

Until 7 November. Box office: 0131-248 4848.

© Mark Fisher 2009

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