Last night I attended a performance of Roger Crane’s The Last Confession starring David Suchet as Cardinal Benelli. The performance also starred Sam Perks (Father Lorenzi), Phillip Craig (the Confessor), David Ferry (Monsignor Magee), Richard O’Callaghan (Cardinal Albino Luciani/Pope John Paul I), Nigel Bennett (Cardinal Villot), Stuart Milligan (Bishop Marcinkus), Donald Douglas (Pope Paul VI), and Bernard Lloyd (Cardinal Felici.)
The play is about the reign of Pope John Paul, whose reign lasted a mere 33 days. In the play Cardinal Benelli wishes to make one last confession, and to make it public, with regards to his involvement in the short reign of Pope John Paul I. He takes a Confessor from months prior to the death of Pope Paul VI’s death (and Benelli’s elevation to Cardinal), to Cardinal Benelli’s death four years after the election of Pope John Paul II.
During the play, we see how Cardinal Benelli orchestrates the election of Cardinal Luciani as Pope John Paul I. However, things go drastically wrong as the new Pope tries to implement changes and eventually decides to replace leading members of the Curia. He requests that Cardinal Benelli return from Florence, but the Cardinal does not arrive before the death of the Pope under highly suspicious circumstances. The Cardinal then becomes the leading candidate to replace him until the compromise Cardinal Wojtyła is elected. The Cardinal’s involvement leads him to question his faith, although in the end he decides to burn his written confession and then passes away.
While the set is rather minimal, it is has moveable walls that provide a good idea of different scenes.
The cast, especially David Suchet, were excellent. All provided a very moving and convincing portrayal and makes the production even that much more moving. The cast make their characters truly life like, and truly made me wonder if it was not possible for a Pope to have been killed in order to prevent changes from occurring.
The production runs until June 1st, 2014 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. If you get the chance, you must see this production.