Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner

This article is from 2015

Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner

credit: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Pamela Carter talks provocation, visual art, Paul Bright's revival and the forthcoming book

Untitled Projects' play Paul Bright's Confessions Of A Justified Sinner was a bold attempt to repair the fragments of the mythical adaptation of the celebrated novel: part installation, part monologue, it followed Bright's adventures as he staged various episodes at different locations, until the production – and the man himself – imploded at the final event, a rave-cum-performance at a rural manor. Pamela Carter, tasked with putting together the lost documentation and writing the script, worked closely with director Stewart Laing to create one of the most highly praised Scottish productions of the past decade. Now, like Bright himself, the production has been revived.

Loosely based on James Hogg's 1824 satirical novel, Confessions is set to dazzle new audiences with its playful provocation on the nature of identity. Carter's script, which follows Bright's audacious path and his tendency to operate in self-destruct mode, however, is as influenced by visual as much as theatrical art.

Her interest in the visual arts manifests itself in the painterly composition of her plays. As she says: 'I'm always writing for a space, a dimension. It's not a literary thing. When I'm writing, it's about spacial relationships. I try to see the characters in my head. Working with Stewart is great, he's an incredible visual artist, very generous and we get to talk about what things look like. We both have similar aesthetics; we both are involved in how it will look and be represented. I'm always interested in that, which may annoy some directors – but it's fun for me.'

Her work on Paul Bright does point to other great artists. Carter cites Pina Bausch's masterpiece Cafe Muller as having an indelible effect on her. 'I saw it in 1992 in Edinburgh at the EIF and had never seen anything like it, didn't know what it was. It was particularly the repetition, something that begins comic, funny, sweet becomes disturbing, and I think the ability to do that without saying anything is really exciting,' she says. 'It's quite a circuitous route really, there is a moment in [Carter’s recent work with Laing] Slope where Rimbaud is left alone with the audience, and there is reference to Bausch in there. I wanted to put something in the script that was up for grabs in rehearsal – a gift for Stewart Laing, the director.'

The video clips in Confessions, meanwhile, seem to be based on the self-consciously avant-garde late-night TV there used to be in the 80s. 'Not necessarily. That was made up,' she laughs. 'We thought, how do we document the shift in Paul Bright? When we came to the third episode, we wanted a different way of doing it. Hence Super 8 and video, cameos etc. That was interesting to us, and fun to us. There were practical reasons for that, rather than try to stage an episode and film it.'

There is also a forthcoming book of the production. 'It's a thing of beauty. Two hundred pages full of colour, never before released photos from the production [and] stills from the film. It's been a great experience in general putting it all together.'

Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, The Queen’s Hall, 473 2000, 19–22 Aug, £20.

Paul Bright's Confessions of a Justified Sinner

In 1987, Paul Bright, a rebellious young Scottish director set out to stage James Hogg’s cult novel Confessions of a Justified Sinner in a series of radical productions across Scotland. In 2010, Untitled Projects began work with the actor George Anton to assemble an archive and exhibition of this almost-forgotten feat of…