What We Do
Since being founded in 2000, Nu Century Arts has established an international reputation for producing ground breaking and influential work of a global standard. Based in the Handsworth area of Birmingham UK, its mission statement is to make a lasting difference.
Not Quite Gospel
Not Quite Gospel.
As a confirmed Pan-Africanist from the moment of conception - Guyana in 1956 was that kind of place! - who came to closely examine the tenets of Marxism in the course of my own personal rites of passage, I have the saying "All Property is Theft" seared into my consciousness. That same thought came to mind as I sat watching the unfolding of Don Kinch's provocative new work 'Not Quite Gospel'. The relationship between the church, land and the people is the secular analysts' dream. In this play, the people are divided - by age, sex, ambition, desire and greed! Deeply-felt sentiments are wonderfully expressed in song and word.
It is a healthy state of affairs when our community is able to discuss matters religious in the public domain without the extreme reactions witnessed elsewhere. And this is a serious discussion, believe me. The current phenomenon of the charismatic church leader is one which we should address. It used to be the union leader in an otherwise industrialiised landscape.
'Not Quite Gospel' opens a page of enquiry which asks the audience to assume the role of jury. Take your role seriously and make sure you see this play.
NOT QUITE GOSPEL
Although I have long moved beyond this restriction, I grew up in a church environment where going to the theatre was frowned upon. Cinemas and theatres were thought unholy places, unbecoming for any respectable follower of Christ to be seen in. So, there was for me a sense of 'eating the forbidden fruit' as I joined others at the Custard Factory to enjoy this well-written, well-produced and well-acted play 'Not Quite Gospel'. Meeting the writer/producer and actors at the end and sharing some good food and drink was a sort of icing on the cake of a lovely evening.
As a seasoned church person, I found the storyline easy enough to pick up and follow; but I am not certain how easy it would be for those unfamiliar with this genre. Many of the themes resonated with my experience and I was often applauding and smiling knowingly, sometimes laughing out loud - and I was not always on my own! Sub-plots like the new pastor living in the shadow of an illustrious predecessor; divided loyalties between those who want to move on and those wanting to fossilise how things used to be and must never change; the former pastor's son's jealousy of the relationship between his dad and his would be successor, which the son feels has robbed him of a proper father/son relationship; single-parenting and girlie rivalry; not to mention the bigoted sister who thinks young people are nothing but spoilers of church purity and are to be avoided at all cost. These and more were well portrayed in 'Not Quite Gospel'.
Two young people I spoke to during the break thought that the play's portrayal of young people was somewhat stereotypical. They pointed to the single parenting and promiscuity issues raised in it. I feel it would be surreal if the play did not raise these and other issues precisely because these are prevalent within the church, in spite of whatever views people may hold about them.
If anything, I think the play was not radical enough. I hope Don Kinch will push the boundaries a little more in a part two of Not Quite Gospel; exploring, for example, issues such as prosperity, classism, sexuality, racism and identity, sexism particularly in leadership, the feminisation of church, and some of church's quirkier teachings and customs.
This is not to detract from a play that provided me with an evening of great enjoyment. I have recommended it to my friends and will continue to encourage people of faith and no faith to go see and enjoy. Placing the Black Church in its once forbidden space of the theatre is, for me, a wonderful irony!
Dr J D Aldred
Secretary, MECA, Churches Together in England;
Presenter, 'The Perfect Saturday Night Conversation' on BBC WM 95.6FM, DAB and online atwww.bbc.co.uk/wm
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