The Last Confession

His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth

reviewed by Neville Cohn

To experience Roger Crane‘s play The Last Confession is to be drawn into a unique and

fascinating world which is as mysterious as it is intriguing, an all­ male environment in which

power play is the order of the day. Into this curious world in which subtle backstabbing is a highly

developed art, comes a newly elected pope who is strikingly different to all those who went before


He takes the name John Paul and is quickly dubbed The Smiling Pope. It is undeniable that at one

level, he seems a perpetually beaming innocent. But behind this facade is a shrewd judge of men

determined to restructure the church for the better.

Unsurprisingly, this alarms the Curia, that secretive ring of clerics that surrounds the pontiff

perpetually. These men fear that their world of influence is imperilled. Then, little more than a

David Suchet

David Suchet Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

month in the job, Pope John Paul 1 is found dead in bed. Ever since, there have been swirling rumours about how the Pontiff met his end.

David Suchet, best known for his TV role as Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famous little Belgian detective, is a central figure. And his quiet, unobtrusive presence dominates the production.

Sporting a tiny, pale mauve skull cap in Act 1, he could as easily pass as a rabbinical figure as a Catholic heavy weight. His every word was made meaningful.

In this production there are no weak links. It’s an ensemble piece, each character clearly defined, as scarlet ­robed cardinals as well as some lesser clerics and the Pope endeavour – for a variety of reasons ­ to deal with the unsavoury goings­ on at the Vatican’s scandal­ ridden bank.

Richard O’Callaghan in the pivotal role of the luckless Pope John Paul I does wonders in giving point and meaning to the role. Donald Douglas is completely convincing as Pope Paul VI as is Philip Craig as the Confessor. And Stuart Milligan does wonders as the ethically challenged

Bishop Marcinkus.

A remarkable and rapidly adjustable all­ purpose set serves variously as a number of locations

within the Vatican with a few props – a table, a few chairs and the like.

Laurels to the backstage staff who skilfully, silently and rapidly moved set and props about in

semi­ darkness.

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