The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Gospel according to Jesus Queen of Heaven
Published 09 Aug 2015

It’s a service, not a show. It’s an autobiographical one-woman play, as writer Jo Clifford describes her journey towards coming out as transgender, but it’s also a rare and beautiful reflection on the life of Jesus, a female Jesus, or perhaps a transgender one, and a meditation on a more truthful and generous interpretation of her words. Clifford arrives as a traveller, hiking pole in hand, perhaps newly returned from wandering the desert. And from nativity to ascension, she describes the life of the outcast’s outcast, part sermon, part confessional, but everywhere an oasis of tolerance and love.

Clifford’s Gospel is like a warm embrace. It’s an act of communion and healing, but it’s angry too. As funny and outrageous as her rewriting of the Good Samaritan as an old queen with cum on her lips can be, her invocation of Golgotha and the Passion is agonising. Dropping her warm and welcoming persona, Clifford turns her back on the audience and barks "Faggot!" "Tranny!" as she lights a row of votive candles: the words she and so many other transwomen face as they traverse their own stations of the cross towards acceptance in their true gender. 

Originally condemned for blasphemy when it premiered in 2009, Clifford’s story is in fact the absolute opposite. It may be a heretical doctrine that she imparts, but it’s a deeply spiritual, almost sacred hour, preaching kindness and bravery in the face of cruelty, ignorance and fear.