Previewed 28 June 2007, Opened 2 July 2007, Closed 15 September 2007 at the Haymarket Theatre in London
Roger Crane's new play The Last Confession in London starring David Suchet.
The Vatican, 1978: a little-known Cardinal from Venice is elected to succeed Pope Paul VI. A compromise candidate, he takes the name Pope John Paul I, and quickly shows himself to be the liberal the reactionaries within the Catholic Church most feared. Just thirty-three days later, he is dead. No official investigation is conducted, no autopsy is performed, and the Vatican's press release about the cause of death is later found to be, in large part, false. Just the evening before his death, John Paul had warned three of his most influential but hostile Cardinals that they would be replaced.
His death marks the climax of fifteen troubled years of controversy and machination within the Church; schisms threaten its unity and the shadow of the Mafia hovers over its financial affairs. Only Cardinal Benelli has the power to challenge the dead Pope's enemies. This incisive new thriller tracks the dramatic tensions, crises of faith and political manoeuvrings inside the Vatican surrounding the death of the man known as 'the Smiling Pope'.
The cast for The Last Confession in London features David Suchet as 'Cardinal Benelli' with Richard O'Callaghan as 'John Paul 1', Charles Kay as 'Cardinal Felici', Bruce Purchase as 'Cardinal Baggio', Michael Jayston 'John Paul II', Bernard Lloyd as 'Secretary of State Villot', Stuart Milligan as 'Bishop Marcinkus' and Clifford Rose. Directed by David Jones with designs by William Dudley. This prodcution transfers to London's West End following an acclaimed season at the Chichester Festival Theatre in April 2007. David Suchet is widely known to television audiences from such series as Blott on the Landscape, The Way We Live Now, National Crime Squad and Agatha Christie's Poirot. He is also one of the UK's leading actors, his many roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company include Shylock, Iago, and Caliban. His numerous West End credits include Man and Boy, Amadeus and Oleanna.
"This Vatican thriller, the debut of the New York lawyer Roger Crane, was a popular success at Chichester in April. In this West End transfer, it looks a little mechanical, the cogs and wheels of its plot workings plainly visible as it advances speculative theories surrounding the untimely demise of the 'smiling Pope' John Paul I. But the great strength of David Jones's production is its performances, chief among them David Suchet as Cardinal Benelli, right-hand man of John Paul I's predecessor and the architect of the reluctant Albino Luciani's ascent to the papacy he would hold for a mere 33 days before his mysterious death... The play loses momentum after Luciani's death, and the debates surrounding the tensions between church and state, spiritual and material, human and divine don't emerge quite strongly enough. But when the powerplay between well-drawn characters is as finely acted as here, it grips." The Times
"What a pleasure to encounter such an ambitious new play - a conspiracy thriller and murder mystery that manages the rare feat of being as intelligent as it is entertaining. Part whodunnit, part meditation on the nature of faith, Roger Crane's debut drama kept me gripped throughout... Having excelled on television as Robert Maxwell, David Suchet gives another compelling portrait of power as Benelli, who came close to becoming Pope himself... A West End transfer must surely beckon for this wise and absorbing play." The Daily Telegraph
"This intelligent and provocative new work from first time playwright - and full-time New York lawyer - Roger Crane... offers up a fascinating, unsettling illustration of the dilemma that confronts all religious hierarchies: how can one reconcile a power struggle with a life lived in God's service?.. The West End should surely ready itself for an imminent Papal audience." The London Evening Standard
"The always entertaining David Suchet brings his silky, magnetic stage presence to liven up Roger Crane's speculative script, which is full of arch exchanges with lashings of genuflexion and ring kissing - an interesting cross between The Da Vinci Code and a Robert Bolt costume drama, all of it staged on William Dudley's sinister set of metal grilles and porticos, the Switzers on guard... As a thoughtful whodunnit, cleverly directed by David Jones, it's perfectly watchable. As an insight into the Vatican's dark days, it's divine. For spin, backstabbing and hidden cash trails, this lot make Blair and Co look like amateurs." The Sunday Telegraph
The Last Confession in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 28 June 2007, opened on 2 July 2007 and closed on 15 September 2007.