On collecting my ticket for Paul Bright's Confessions of a Justified Sinner Reconstructed by Untitled Projects I was told "the exhibition is open so feel free to wander around; there will be an announcement when the play is about to start." The exhibition? Having gone along with no prior knowledge of the production the mention of an exhibition intrigued me.
From all the displayed artefacts and ephemera which include original notebooks, photographs, hand written scripts and notes, a reel to reel film and video of what looked like an am-dram period production, a straw noose, talking crows, and posters for bygone plays, including one for Mayfest (priced, unbelievably now, at between £2.50- £9.00) it was easy to spot the theme; memories and murder, with a touch of madness.
When the production begins properly it becomes clear this is no ordinary piece of theatre. The set is minimal; a table (containing a box and other items) and a chair, a film screen and a separate control desk to the side of the stage where an able assistant controls what is seen and heard. The protagonist, George Anton sits at the table and is in total command as he relays and replays his relationship with the young, avant-garde Scottish theatre director Paul Bright.
Initially it appears monologic as George naturally and comically reminisces about his involvement with Paul and his obsession with James Hogg's novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. All of what happened, he explains, took place during the mid 80s to early 90s, and he speaks of his regret in losing touch with Paul before he died.
But as a result of receiving a box of Paul's possessions he is able to create the show and employs various bits and pieces left to him to help piece together what happened after they lost touch. However, the performance soon becomes much more than a monologue; it develops into a multi-media spectacle as the action plays out via audio excerpts, still photographs and grainy images on a cinema screen.
Using Hogg's iconic novel as the basis for a completely new and innovative way of conveying the story and featuring such heavy weights of Scottish theatre such as Giles Havergill, Alison Peebles and respected writer Annie Griffin, Stuart Laing and his team at Untitled Projects and the National Theatre of Scotland have created a unique piece of theatre.
At one point Anton tells the audience he loves the theatre and wanted to become an actor from an early age because he realised it was a profession where he could tell lies and get away with it. So, is he telling the truth?
In this production Laing et al have created more than a theatrical production; they have created a concept. The clever inclusion of a respected theatre director, actor and writer certainly plays its part in challenging the audience. At around two hours in duration there is plenty of plot and intrigue to maintain interest.
Coupled with Anton's relaxed and natural performance there is no doubt they have given us something of an event which manages to blur the division between reality and imagination.
Paul Bright's Confessions of a Justified Sinner runs at the Tramway, Glasgow until 29th June 2013.