In 2009, Jo Clifford’s The Gospel According To Jesus, Queen of Heaven premiered at The Tron in Glasgow. Returning to the Tron Theatre exactly ten years after its explosive premiere, Queen Jesus Productions present a specially curated, week-long programme of events to reflect on the play’s remarkable impact, resilience and enduring relevance.
Queen Jesus Productions was founded in 2015 by Directors Jo Clifford, Susan Worsfold and Annabel Cooper to support the touring of The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven. Jo Clifford wrote the original production, Susan Worsfold is Director and Designer and Annabel Cooper is the Producer.
This Wednesday 30 October will see the Scottish premiere of the Brazilian version of the play, O Evangelho Segundo Jesus, Rainha do Ceu performed (with English subtitles) by trans artist and activist Renata Carvalho.
The Brazilian version of the play has its origins in our Momentum programme, delivered in partnership with Festivals Edinburgh and Creative Scotland. Based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Momentum delegate, Natalia Mallo, saw the original play on her first night in Edinburgh, when performed at the Fringe and realised immediately it would resonate in her home country.
“A friend sensed that I would identify with the work. It was the last night of The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven and I had tickets for another show. My friend insisted that I should go, so I did. I decided immediately that I wanted to take Jo to Brazil and produce the show there in Portuguese. I stayed up all night translating it.” (Natalia Mallo, Writer and Momentum Delegate)
As it has in the UK, the play has faced huge opposition in Brazil, a country with the highest murder rate for queer and trans people in the world - performances have been cancelled and the cast have received death threats. With the election of right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, opposition has intensified, with serious concerns about Renata’s safety in the country.
Bolsonaro has himself tweeted about the play. Simultaneously, it has been performed extensively across the country, helping to change the landscape of theatre in Brazil. It has become a way to celebrate the rich, vibrant trans culture in the country and is now a focus of discussion about censorship and the limits of art.
Renata Carvalho (Trans activist, Artist and Performer) commented: “Queen Jesus opened in Brazil on the 26 August 2016. Since then the play has been banned ten times and suffered attempts to ban it dozens of times more. We have had a bomb thrown on stage, suffered the foulest insults, have been threatened with death and rape on numerous occasions, and have had armed police invading the stage.
But the play has also opened-up discussions on art, on justice, on politics and on religion. Jesus Queen of Heaven has given me a stronger professionalism as an artist and has amplified my voice as an activist and transpologist (trans+[anthro]pologist). It has taken me to places I thought I would never go to and now it is bringing me to Glasgow. What an incredible joy to be performing in Scotland. It is like returning to the very beginnings of it all... Evoe!"
Jo Clifford (Founder, Director and Writer) added: "I've been writing plays for forty years and in that time have written one hundred plays. I'm proud of all of them; but perhaps most proud of this one, because I know it has changed trans people's lives for the better".
Susan Worsfold (Director and Designer) concludes: “Queen Jesus is a work of devotion, to ourselves and to being present with one another. We create a bravespace in which everyone, whatever their sexuality or gender, can celebrate who they are and who their neighbour is, too.”
As well as reflecting on the past ten years, the week is looking to the future. There will be a series of activist workshops curated by Queen Jesus Productions, and post-show discussions reflecting on the anniversary, transtheology, censorship and activism, and queer future. A tenth anniversary edition of the original script will be published the week of the performances too.
Full details of the programme can be found and tickets booked via the Tron Theatre. The week of celebration is supported by Creative Scotland National Lottery Funding.