Paul Bright’s Confessions Of A Justified Sinner
4 stars ****
SOME WALKED out, but many stayed: for this astonishing 2013 show by cutting-edge Scottish company Untitled Projects, now revived for an Edinburgh Festival run, is a strange and alluring hybrid beast, part exhibition and installation, part lecture, part sequence of film-clips, part thrilling solo performance by the lone actor on stage, George Anton.
It’s also part work of genius, and part self-obsessed meta-theatrical romp through the 1980’s Scottish cultural scene; for in essence, Paul Bright’s Confessions tells the real or imaginary story of Paul Bright, a young and rebellious Scottish film director of the late 1980’s, and of his doomed attempt to create a new screen version of James Hogg’s great 1824 novel The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner, filmed in locations across Scotland from Arthur’s Seat and Traquair House to a Glasgow east end pub.
Somehow , though – through their cheek, their chutzpah, the sheer vividness with they conjure up a particular cultural moment, and the ever-more-striking brilliance of Anton’s bravura performance as an actor who was once Bright’s creative soulmate – director Stewart Laing, writer Pamela Carter and their team succeed in creating something that transcends theatrical in-jokery.
So that in the end, almost against the odds, Paul Bright’s Confessions builds towards a hugely moving final moment of insight: not only into the messy business of creativity, but into the conflicted soul of Scotland itself, the land whose deep and driven Calvinist inheritance, so brilliantly exposed in Hogg’s novel, finds a strange echo in this 20th century tale of a man who clearly sees himself as one of the creative “elect”, but who in the end finds only self-destruction and obscurity, and a long wait for a predictably early death.
EIF p. 21