Edinburgh Theatre

The year 2015-2016 was a big year for me, coming to Edinburgh after working in the Middle East for several years. One of the first things I did was visit the Festival Theatre, where I fell in love with modern dance (I hate dancing, so don’t switch off if you are also not a dancer). Although I intend to continue visiting the Festival, I will also be trying out other venues, for modern dance, drama, ballet and opera.

The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven


The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven

I entered a dark, candle-lit auditorium, finding a dining table stretching the length of the floor, draped in a pristine white tablecloth, with candles and cutlery. Audience members trickled in, free to sit in the auditorium or at the table as guests of a transgender Jesus.

Queer, and just a bit controversial, The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven introduces us to Jesus preparing a typical gathering for disciples. I attended this production over Christmas at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre, and found it touchingly bizarre that the play by Edinburgh-based playwright and actress Jo Clifford has stirred so much tension and self-examination in different parts of the world.

In Brazil, The Gospel According to Jesus has been met by angry guards and sell-out crowds; a branch of the Evangelical Church has requested its banishment, while audience members have formed lines of barricades to let the play continue. Arguably its greatest star, the Brazilian travesti actress Renata Carvalho, has yelled at security officers trying to disable the play and disperse the audience during mid-performance. Few plays anywhere can have provoked such reactions but when you sit there in the audience, watching a transgender woman lighting candles and talking about love, it's difficult not to see this play as a touchstone for solidarity with the underdog and wonder what exactly was riling the protestors.

All that's best with humanity is the play's guiding theme: we get Jesus handing out bread and red wine while chattily providing a series of sermons including the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Transgender Daughter. We also get a queering of our conception of Jesus and the disciples:

And I don't know why they started saying we were only twelve.

I mean there were sometimes less,

but mostly more.

Or why they said we were only men.

Some of us were men . . .

and some of us were women

and some of us were men who used to be women

and some of us were women who used to be men

and some of us were both at once.

We confused people,

and I loved that in us most of all.

It is, of course, these kind of lines that will either provoke indignation or curiosity, a 'I never thought of it like that' about one of the best-known stories around. The central message of the sermons remains the same, but with a different light, one less patriarchal and less heteronormative. For lovers of patriarchy, accordingly, this queering of Jesus may continue to rile – we are in a new age of patriarchal anger and suspicion, after all – but for those looking for a theatre of love, The Gospel According to Jesus is a wonderfully meditative night out and proof of the gentle, potential radicalism of transgender identity.

(Image by Aly Wight)

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza
Resisting Whiteness


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Monday, 26 October 2020

Captcha Image

What's On This Week

My Latest Posts

October 17, 2020

What if gender-critical feminism came to power?

This scenario is inspired by a dialogue I had yesterday evening with a gender-critical feminist just before I went to bed. Here is what I dreamed: In the summer of 2021, the Conservative minister Liz Truss introduces legislation, making women-only spaces legally accessible only to those born female. This U.K. law includes a provision for funding al...
October 13, 2020

Responses to my blog post (1)

A frustrating aspect of my website is that when people write in, there's no trace of an email address so no way of getting back to people, and also no way of publishing their messages. However, I received such a nice response to my article just now that I'd like to include it here. It's from some who for the sake of confidentiality (in case it's ne...
October 11, 2020

On adopting a more gender-critical transgender activism

On adopting a more gender-critical transgender activism Note to the reader: This post is intended as a contribution to addressing the current tensions between transgender activism and gender-critical feminism. The way I see myself in relation to female i dentity, and the ideas I express here, are not a prescription for other trans women. The t...
May 11, 2020

The Book of Queer Prophets, curated by Ruth Hunt

in Books

  The Book of Queer Prophets: 24 Writers on Sexuality and Religion The historically fraught relationship between Abrahamic religions and LGBT+ identities provides the backdrop to The Book of Queer Prophets , a collection of twenty-four meditations by public figures who identify as both religious and LGBT+. The book's curator, the for...
May 09, 2020

Queer/Transgender short film: Mesmeralda

Joshua Matteo's short film, Mesmeralda , merging horror with esoterica, is now out on youtube . As with his previous work Metanoia , we see youthful trans actors racing through the empty streets of a moonlit New York, haunted by symbols and stalked by a masked figure of violent intentions. Mesmeralda , as described by Matteo, is the companion ...
March 08, 2020

Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare

Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare Summer, 2016: Gina's Big Bang, as transitioning begins A bureaucratic question in a sun-lit room. My medical practitioner asks me if I intend to have children. The question lingers, but the self-loathing is instant. No, I won't be having children. The practitioner nods. She moves on to the n...
November 10, 2019

General Election

General Election 12 December 2019 I spent the last election in an office, alone but for the company of a colleague. We watched the BBC's coverage while I drank wine, downbeat and expecting austerity and the absence of hope to triumph. Then we saw the exit poll and hung around, disbelieving at the sight of the kindled embers and lukewarm glow of a f...
October 05, 2019


October 05, 2019


Joker The trailer did its work, flashing images of anomie and fury perfectly pitched for these unstable times of precarious working conditions, grievance and institutional indifference. For these same reasons, Joker , directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the protagonist, has attracted pre-release criticisms like few other recen...
September 29, 2019

Resisting Whiteness event 2019

Resisting Whiteness one-day event, Edinburgh Returning for the second consecutive year, Resisting Whiteness came yesterday to the Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh, providing an intense and inspiring series of panels, as well as a wonderful spoken word section, and a final segment based around the documentary short Invisible by internationally-acclaim...