Theatre: Love The Sinner

January 13, 2024
3 mins read


By Karla Williams

Friday, April 23, 2010.

Being the daughter of an evangelical pentecostal Pastor, and possessing what many may consider a strong faith in God, I was instantly fascinated by Drew Pautz’s latest play, Love the Sinner. The play opens in an African Hotel room, where a group of international church leaders are meeting to contend the need for Christian doctrine to change with the times. In a neighbouring room, a brief sexual encounter between Joseph, a local porter, and Michael, a British conference volunteer, leads to a direct and potent challenge as Michael must returns to England to grapple with own ethics and beliefs.

Love the Sinner marks the play’s first showing at the National Theatre, and his works have been produced previously  at Soho, Hampstead Theatre and BAC, all in London. I recently sat down with him to talk about moral and ethical conflicts, his own experience of Christianity and how the script came about in the first place.

First of all, how would you describe Love the Sinner?

Well I find it difficult to describe because I think it’s a bit peculiar in its structure….Do you mean plot wise?

Plot-wise and the themes; what is the play really all about?

Plot-wise, I’d say that it is about a man who goes to a religious conference in Africa and is confronted with challenges to himself, his morals and his ethics and then he takes that challenge back home….Thematically, for me the big stuff that interests me is, how you square your moral, ethical, ideals and ideas both personally and with any kind of organisations that you might belong to, with how you actually act.

Coming from an evangelical and pentecostal upbringing, I’m curious as to why you wrote the play in the first place?

It’s got quite a funny journey this play because it began as just the first scene, which was a really tight self-contained play. This theatre company Nabokov, asked a bunch of writers to respond to an issue in a newspaper and within a week you had to create a piece on that issue. The issue [I selected] was the ordination of Gay Bishops in the Anglican Church, which I wasn’t very interested in to be honest, because where I stood on the issue was crystal clear. But when I looked into the debate I discovered that the shape of the debate was quite interesting and the first scene came about through that….After that first scene the play developed into a couple more scenes and a couple more scenes and I stretched it out to the play we have now.

In the play’s first scene you have a number of Church leaders from different countries, including the UK and Africa. Are you intentionally making a point about the different cultural approached to Christianity?

Yeah, I think that that’s very, very interesting. Within that group [of Church leaders] there are a range of opinions…you have two people who are representative of African Churches, but across Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, you’ve got very different opinions as well.

So what point, if any, are you making with the play?

I think it’s always a danger to make an explicit point to avoid didacticism in any way, but I’m interested in taking an audience through that experience of the nuance of the moral discussion and sort of trying to see both sides of opinions and where they come from.  The reason why it starts quite big and goes into a much more intimate and smaller exchange between individual characters is because I’m very interested in the differences between what we believe and what we do when we are challenged. In this example, it has a religious element and sexualitym, but that confrontation between what we believe, or think we believe, and actually do, is an extraordinary resonant issue.

Is Love the Sinner based upon your own experiences of Christianity?

I don’t go to Church at all so I’m kind of an outsider. It’s not from my experience but I certainly have know practicing Christians throughout my life.

Finally, why would you like people to come and see the play?

It’s not really a play about religion, in my mind; it’s a play about those moral, ethical dilemmas. So I think that makes it very relevant to all of these issues that we are confronting about different societies and a global world and all those kind of things. It’s also an interesting theatrical structure and I think it’s unusual to see religion on stage which is interesting, whether you’re religious or not. And believe it or not, it’s quite funny at times. So hopefully its one of those nights that has all those things in it: entertaining, fun, surprising, shocking now and then and thought provoking.

Love the Sinner will preview at the National Theatre from the 4th May 2010 and will be playing in rep until the 17th June 2010. For more information or to book tickets for the production please visit the website:    

Karla Williams is a London-based journalist and writer.

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