For I Have Sinned
The King's Arms , Salford
For I Have Sinned is a cat-and-mouse thriller in the style of the classic Sleuth. Which makes it very hard to review without giving away any of the twists.
The Priest (author Shaun Hennessy), a somewhat self-satisfied pastor, is interrupted while daydreaming in the confessional by The Man (Marlon Solomon), who claims to need more than the average time making confession. Having described how he lost his religious faith, The Man explains in order to save him from committing the sin of suicide The Priest must agree to a further meeting. Thus begins a series of conversations in which past sins are unearthed and retribution apportioned.
Director Stewart Campbell has not really cracked the staging of the play. For a thriller, there is a distinct lack of suspense or menace so with a word-heavy script, the play tends to bog down into two blokes talking. The conversation is, however, heavily expositional, describing past events to progress the plot rather than digging into the underlying motives of the characters. The mood of the play darkens, moving from wry humour in the opening scene to heavier topics, and it is refreshing the sin involved is pride rather than lust or avarice.
The psychological aspect of the play is one-sided. The Man is less an actual character, more of a catalyst, a figure of retribution or guilt. It is mentioned he spent much of his life abroad and studied Buddhism, but this does not really impact upon the play as the aspect of faith is not explored in depth.
Shaun Hennessy plays The Priest as more politician than evangelist. He has an unshakable faith in himself and his own abilities rather than a divine being. Like politicians everywhere, he defends his actions on the grounds he is serving his community, so the ends justify the means. The Priest remains incapable of acknowledging the evil in his past actions and, in a neat touch, lets slip that he actually regards his time in the Parish as a kind of purgatory.
Religious faith is brought up in the opening scene but passed over as the play starts to progress the plot. As a result, the use of religious icons in the closing sequence for purposes which are decidedly irreligious lack the shock value that might be expected. As The Priest’s faith is ambivalent, it also does not serve as an indication of his damnation.
After a strong opening, For I Have Sinned does not develop the momentum to be completely satisfactory but remains an enjoyable play.
Reviewer: David Cunningham