More froth over McNally play

Corpus Christi, the play once described by our old friend, the rent-a-quote Stephen Green of Christian Voice, as “a massive homosexual propaganda vehicle”, is now exercising would-be censors in Oz, with an Anglican bishop getting his cassock in a twist over its showing in Sydney.

Robert Forsyth, Bishop of South Sydney, “questioned the integrity of Corpus Christi and expressed his outrage at the ‘unhistorical and untrue’ depiction of the son of God and some of his disciples as homosexual”, according to the Velvet Hammer blog.

“It is deliberately, not innocently, offensive and they’re obviously having a laugh about it,” says the bish. “It’s historical nonsense and I wouldn’t want to go and see it. Life’s too short.”

Then by all means stay away, My Lord Bishop, and leave the seat free for someone who will appreciate Terrence McNally’s updated passion play, which depicts Jesus and his mates as all gay and living in modern Texas (and opened in the New Theatre, Newtown, Sydney, two days ago). But you might like to prove to us the historicity of your big Christian handbook before you criticise art for not sticking to the facts.

Goodness, but if art stuck literally to facts it wouldn’t be art. It’s meant to go beyond, and present concepts in ways that challenge us and make us think about things in fresh and unusual ways. What McNally does here is to draw parallels between the rejection he faced as a young gay man growing up in Texas and Christ’s persecution.

Historical and mythical situations are used all the time to shed light on modern problems. Who hasn’t seen Julius Caesar performed in the context of, say, Mussolini’s Italy (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, 1970s), Macbeth in modern Scotland (a BBC drama in the nineties) or Romeo and Juliet set in the streets of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, with stunning music and set-piece dance routines (West Side Story)?

But use Christian (or, for that matter, Muslim) imagery and iconography and, hey, you’re blaspheming. Off with their heads!

As you would expect, there’s an organisation with the word “family” in it in the mix, too. The Australian Family Association’s spokeswoman, Angela Conway, said the play’s “creators had committed ‘a big enough crime’ by neglecting to treat Christianity and Christian believers with more sensitivity”, says the blog story, going on to quote her as saying that the play is “completely fanciful”. Er . . .

When the play opened in the USA there were bomb threats. Christians were out in force when it did the Fringe in Edinburgh in 2005, with a Christian Voice spokesman, Bruce McNally (presumably no relation to the author), saying, “I am quite surprised that this kind of material is being brought to the Fringe, especially with the new religious hatred Bill going through Parliament, as it is deeply offensive to many people.”

(Christian Voice has more than one member? We’re impressed!)

Go back to 1999 and there was even an Islamic death fatwa issued against the playwright when his work was shown in London, because Muslims regard Jesus as a messenger of God. It was signed by one Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, “judge” of something called the Shari’ah Court of the UK, who said at the time, “The fatwa is to express the Islamic point of view that those who are insulting to Allah and the messengers of God, they must understand it is a crime.”

Yeah, right. Ho, hum.

2 Responses to “More froth over McNally play”

  1. […] we had the Bishop of South Sydney complaining about Terence McNally’s Corpus Christi (see 9 February story); now it’s The Vagina Monologues in the good ol’ US of […]

  2. […] up, check out Mediawatchwatch on the news Robert Forsyth, Bishop of South Sydney is getting his cassock in a twist over Corpus Christi. And in the US, Catholic bishops are relocating a seminar because the venue […]