BWW Reviews: THE LAST CONFESSION - An Acting Masterclass
Watching distinguished, seasoned veterans onstage in Jonathan Church's play The Last Confession was a privilege. Opening in Melbourne last night, in the final leg of an international tour, The Last Confession centres around the life of Albino Luciani, (played with sincerity and compassion by Richard O'Callaghan), his election as Pope John Paul I and ultimately his death a mere 33 days later. It is an intriguing event not only for the Catholic Church but also in the history of the world with the Church refusing to investigate the potential of foul play from the conservative enclave of the Vatican.
At the forefront of the play, is Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, played by British icon David Suchet. From the outset Suchet's voice and presence are unrivaled and he captures the political drive and crave for power that Benelli elicits throughout his confession. Benelli's political maneuvering ultimately comes at the cost of his relationship with God, an issue that he grapples with throughout the play. Benelli's confession to The Confessor, (played stealthily by Philip Craig), acts as the narration of Roger Crane's play. It's a clever technique that advances the story and changes up the structure, keeping the action moving at a steady pace.
The design aesthetic of The Last Confession is particularly clever, taking us into the depths of The Vatican, allowing us to feel part of the elite interior of an otherwise mysterious exterior world. Incense and onstage costume changes highlight the rituals and traditions of the Catholic Church and the set is changed effectively on wheels, yet far too often. It felt like many of the set changes could have been avoided, with the crew particularly distracting in their stage blacks, set amongst the serene visual palate and palatial costumes. Surely four more cardinal costumes could have been made for the crew to keep the atmosphere consistent throughout the piece.
The performances throughout The Last Confession are exemplary, they are a reminder of how powerful and moving the connection to text and delivery of brilliantly written words can impact and educate an audience. David Suchet and the rest of the cast of The Last Confession manage to create a wonderful piece of theatre by combining wonderful stage craft with eloquently poetic dialogue. Whether you are religious or not, The Last Confession is an engaging story told in a masterful fashion.