Confessions of a Justified Sinner
Fans of this touchstone of the Scottish literary canon can breathe fairly easy. Mark Thomson’s adaptation of James Hogg’s 1824 novel Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner pulls off the neat trick of being very faithful to the plot of the original while teasing it out to create a fast-moving and entertaining piece of drama.
Thomson’s version weaves together the twin narratives of Hogg’s original novel about a young man coerced into murdering his brother by a shape shifting doppelganger. Now, instead of navigating a pair of conflicting accounts, we are led through the story by Robert Wringhim (an attention-grabbing performance by Ryan Fletcher), this subjective point of view rendering the young man’s gradual transformation from pious youth to delirious madman wandering the Scottish countryside all the more unsettling.
At times the production walks a fine line between due reverence and parody: some of the supporting roles are played for out-and-out laughs, which comes as relief from the dark subject matter, but it’s also very difficult to take seriously some of the ecclesiastical rantings of the fanatical characters. It’s all highly enjoyable and atmospheric, though, with Neil Murray’s rotating set of dark obelisks conspiring with Malcolm Rippeth’s beautiful lighting effects to cast long shadows across the stage. And the scene in which Fletcher’s Wringhim cries out in the night for Iain Robertson’s devilish Gil-Martin is genuinely chilling.