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The Devil’s Passion review at Crypt of St John, London – ‘radical theology’

Justin Butcher in The Devil's Passion at Crypt of St Johnn, London. Photo: Hannah Barton Justin Butcher in The Devil's Passion at Crypt of St Johnn, London. Photo: Hannah Barton

Justin Butcher, of Scaramouche Jones fame, is not the first to be tempted by the provocative modern heresy of Christ the terrorist, Christ the ‘extremist of love’, a remarkable man on a suicide mission to explode the orthodoxy. It’s not originality of concept that makes The Devil’s Passion such a worthwhile and forceful piece of theatre but rather the nuance of Butcher’s writing and the intelligence and rigour of its theology.

Butcher retells the Easter story from the perspective of the devil, a hazily sinister amalgamation of American cultural and military imperialism, political absolutism and moral relativism, watching through narrowing eyes the ‘radicalisation’ of the son of a carpenter and his evolution into a divine act of terrorism destined to raze the gates of Hell and death.

What at first appears too sermon-neat is cunningly swerved by a text that’s deeply engaged with a radical conception of spiritual reconciliation, influenced strongly by the work of Walter Wink. There are no easy morals or cheap equivalences. Condemnation and commerce, hard rules and hard thinking, structures and power, those are the true devils represented by Butcher’s almost Blakean conception of evil.

It’s sadly been given an old-hat production from Guy Masterson, with too-literal sound design from Jack C Arnold and a performance from Butcher himself so bombastic he threatens to flatten his own text, but nothing can quite quash either its theological expansiveness or fascinating elasticity of thought.

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It’s the radical theology that shines out in this smart but dustily framed one-man show