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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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Friday, July 12, 2013

Paul Bright's Confessions of a Justified Sinner, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Tramway, Glasgow
Four stars
In the year 2038, a researcher may hungrily pounce on this review. It may, by then, be the last fragment of evidence about a show that took place in Glasgow in June 2013.

The researcher will not know whether to trust me. I may, for example, be like Keith Bruce of the Glasgow Herald who wrote a review, seemingly published in the late 1980s, of an all-night performance in which a "few hardy souls . . . were rewarded with an experience none of us will forget". Except everyone did forget. Today, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who remembers Paul Bright and his adaptation of James Hogg's ground-breaking 1824 novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

Some people, in this NTS/Untitled Projects collaboration, do claim to remember. Actor George Anton, who tells the story of his involvement in Bright's wayward performances, shows us interviews with luminaries such as Tim Crouch, Alison Peebles and Giles Havergal who reflect on his legacy. Katie Mitchell talks about Bright ranting about one of her shows at the Gate and Annie Griffin recalls him reworking an entire 1989 production seven days before opening night.

These narrators, however, are as unreliable as Robert Wringhim, the fanatical sinner of Hogg's novel. Just as we are never certain whether Robert's nemesis Gil-Martin is the devil made flesh or a projection of a troubled mind, so we can never fully trust the archive evidence about Bright.

Anton, meanwhile, is like the editor in Hogg's novel, sifting through the scraps of evidence, much of which is on display in the accompanying exhibition. Suddenly you realise Stewart Laing's head-spinning production is not a City of Culture documentary at all, but a dazzlingly faithful adaptation of the novel. But you only have my word for that.
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