Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner
The Queen’s Hall
From 19 August 2015 to 22 August 2015
Review by Philip Fisher
Paul Bright was either a visionary or a madman. Those who see actor George Anton’s relatively affectionate reconstruction of a brief period of Bright’s life can decide for themselves.
It was only while envisioning and creating his theatrical take on a classic Scottish novel, Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, that this very self-possessed man suggested any signs of wayward genius.
Otherwise, he appears to have been merely wayward, having a taste for intoxicants and contradictory, oppositional behaviour. Indeed, at one point, he almost caused an Old Firm football riot.
However, in a brief period culminating in a projected six-part play in 1989-90, Bright put together a cast including not only Anton but also Alan Cumming and Tam Dean Burn amongst others to try and convey the inner turmoil of Hogg’s Faustian tale.
Sprawling across the country and theatrical styles, this saga managed to encompass semi-busking on Arthur’s Seat, Mayfest in Glasgow, the EIF at the very same Queen’s Hall where this biographical reconstruction is appearing, a country house rave and TV.
Even then, the final episode never quite happened, as its enfant terrible disappeared, only revisiting Anton in a post mortem legacy.
The presentation itself is the outcome of considerable committed literary detective work and includes much anecdotal recollection, some reconstructions on screen and an exhibition.
It may not tell viewers a vast amount about Hogg and his epic novel, though it does whet the appetite and might well boost sales and possibly even readership over the next few weeks.
It details considerably more about Bright, though much is conjecture, and Anton himself.
At 1¾ hours, this is yet another EIF solo show. It feels a little long but is a true one-off that deserves a place in such a Festival.