McNally's Gay Christ Play Hits LondonDate: 26 October 1999
Corpus Christi, Terrence McNally's controversial 'gay Christ' play which had its European premiere at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, transfers to London this week. The play opens at the Pleasance Theatre London on Thursday 28 October, following previews from 26 October, and continues until 20 November 1999.
The UK production, by the London-based Theatre 28 company, received both acclaim and censure when it opened in Edinburgh in August. The run sold out despite demonstrations from religious groups who condemned it as 'hateful, wrong and vile'. When the play first opened in New York last year, reactions were even stronger. Police had to install airport-style bomb-detecting gates in the face of 2,000-strong street protests by Christian groups who picketed and held prayer vigils outside the theatre. Death threats were also made against both the cast and the Manhattan Theatre Club where the play was performed.
Set in the 1950s in the small Texas town of the title, Corpus Christi portrays a Christ-like character, called Joshua, and several of his disciples as gay. In the UK production, Judas Iscariot is played by ex-'Coronation Street' star Stephen Billington, voted Villain of the Year for his role as Greg Kelly in this year's British Soap Awards. In the play, Judas seduces Joshua/Jesus into his first sexual experience in the toilets of Pontius Pilate High School.
Billington is joined in the cast by Jonathan Arun, Ian Bass, Peter Bramhill, Cory English, Peter Keswick, Daniel Rabin, Nicholas Salazar, Mel Raido, Andrew Price, Peter Stark, Chris Thompson and Terry Wynne.
Pulitzer Prize winner and four-times Tony Award winner Terrence McNally's other plays include Love! Valour! Compassion!, Bad Habits, The Ritz and Master Class, currently enjoying a UK tour starring Jane Lapotaire. He was also the librettist for the musicals Ragtime, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Pal Joey.
Corpus Christi is directed by Theatre 28 founder Stephen Henry who directed last year's award-winning production of McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion!.