The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven

Every evening, the understated sacred space of St. Mark’s church plays host to what is surely one of the most remarkable shows of the Fringe. In flickering candlelight, Jo Clifford performs a breathtaking and moving monologue as a transgender Jesus, filtering classic New Testament parables through beautiful queer lenses.

Entering Clifford’s “queendom of heaven” is a thought-provoking, moving and uplifting experience. This is a show that that demands to be seen.

A show like this is daring. It garnered its fair share of controversy when it premiered a few years ago in Glasgow – hundreds of demonstrators picketed the venue – and even recently St. John’s rejected the show from its Just Festival, ironic given its claims to be “Edinburgh’s equality and diversity festival”. Why it was rejected is unclear; you would be hard-pushed to find a more inclusive and compassionate show in the whole city. Clifford has the right to be very angry at their decision but if she is, she doesn’t show it. Rather, she embraces that most Christian of values: acceptance, delivering the show with dignity and warmth.

Clifford’s performance is akin to a sermon. She stands before us, gently yet passionately leading us towards the truth Jesus preached: that every individual is deserving of respect. Clifford makes the astute point that many other cultures worldwide, most seen as much more primitive than ours, appreciate and respect non-binary individuals. It is our Western, ‘progressive’ society that treats anyone that doesn’t conform as outsiders, worthy of no respect. These problems show no sign of going away and it is for this reason that Clifford’s show is more vital than ever.

The stories of the Good Samaritan and the prodigal son (reimagined as the prodigal daughter) are told with humour, verve and, in Clifford’s able hands, take on a new significance. The final third is where the piece truly shines: a beautiful communion that embraces the dual power of theatre and ritual. The silence and reverence that the space induces among us is put to brilliant use and Clifford’s words resonate long after the echoes have faded.

Entering Clifford’s “queendom of heaven” is a thought-provoking, moving and uplifting experience. This is a show that that demands to be seen.

Reviews by Sam Forbes




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The Blurb

A candlelit, peaceful, meditative end to a hard day on the Fringe. The archbishop of Glasgow called this vision of a transgendered Jesus 'an affront to the Christian faith'. He never saw it. Listen to those who did: 'Queen Jesus reminds us of the purity of sex and pleasure, the importance of empathy. We hold hands, and remember what it means not to be alone'. Jo Clifford's revolutionary and spiritual work reaches the Fringe for the first time since its explosive and controversial 2009 opening. It promises to be very special.