• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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The Last Confession on Radio 4

BBC Radio 4 has just broadcast an adaptation of Roger Crane’s 2007 play The Last Confession, dealing with the mystery and intrigue around the election and death of Pope John Paul I in 1978, and starring David Suchet as Cardinal Benelli – the plot will be familar to anyone who’s read David Yallop’s In God’s Name. The play contains some some nice exchanges, although the ecclesiastical cynicism and worldliness of most of the characters is somewhat two-dimensional, and when the identity of Benelli’s deathbed confessor is revealed at the end the dialogue that follows is less than credible.

The play can be listened to here for the next week. A excellent review of the stage production is provided on West End Whingers, and includes this gem:

…The first surprise of the evening was that the stalls at least were packed to bursting with coughing Poirot-lovers keen to see David Suchet in a completely different role – this time investigating a mysterious death with an unfeasibly large number of suspects.

…It’s a great story, but the problem is that it would appear that the author started off writing a whodunnit and – possibly under the advisement of his lawyers – thought better of it. Having failed to introduce any discernible coherent themes, Crane is obliged to wrap the play up with some rather woolly musings about “faith” and – sorry to spoil it for you – the rather lame conclusion that “We all killed the Pope”. At this point Neil – ever the card – leaned across and whispered, “No, he’s thinking of Murder on the Orient Express.”

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