Dear Heavenly Father,
Forgive us our many sins. Forgive us for trespassing on previews and speaking ill of them. Forgive us for drinking too much holy wine. And forgive us for giving into temptation by departing at intervals.
And forgive us for our fundamentalism, believing that if we truly seek forgiveness it may be granted whatever our sins, for surely this is the message of Damned by Despair.
Forgive those who delivered that message: Roman Catholic monk Tirso de Molina who wrote it, Frank McGuinness who gave us his new version and director Bijan Sheibani.
For in this 17th-century story Paulo (Sebastian Armesto) has atoned for his sins by spending 10 years in a desert but apparently this is not enough as The Devil (Amanda Lawrence) tells him that he will share the same fate as Enrico (Bertie Carvel) who he meets in contemporary Naples and turns out to be a very, very bad man indeed but still loves his father. If Enrico is doomed to hell then surely Paulo will join him on the toasting fork too?
And forgive us for being reminded of Bobby Crush in Liberace: Live from Heaven where the audience decided whether Liberace should go to heaven or hell. Could the National audience please vote on Paulo’s fate too?
And take pity on those who were cast. Especially favoured players like Lawrence who is wonderfully sinister even when eating a Zoom ice lolly. And Carvel too, for surely he must be wishing he’s stayed with Matilda.
Forgive us for sometimes not understanding the motivations of some of the characters for we know not what they do or why.
And forgive the decision to try and inject humour by reenacting a scene from Reservoir Dogs stuck in the middle of Act 1.
And forgive the extreme violence for it is strangely bloodless and we give thanks for the gunshots for they helped us stay awake.
And take pity on us too for returning after the interval and forgive us looking to see how many had departed. And forgive our sin of envying those who did.
And those who do not wish to know should turn the other cheek by looking away now. Forgive us for asking the question: why, when Enrico is hanged, do we see him stripped, put laboriously into a stage harness and redressed before the noose is put round his neck?
And forgive us for asking too, why, before he is hanged and knowing he is to be hanged, does he do a gymnastic exercise on the rings that hang from his chains?
But we must give thanks for those who advertised a running of 2 hours 35 minutes which is now slashed to 2 hours 10 minutes. For there must be some at the National who are now in a state of panic.
And forgive us for tittering at the man who wrote an open letter to Nicholas Hytner on the NT facebook page asking that he withdraw the production “for the sake of the reputation of the National Theatre and and any compassion you have for the unfortunate actors taking part in it”.
And forgive us for now looking back on Fram nostalgically.
And forgive us if – despite their titles – we do not wish to see revivals of de Molina’s The Bashful Man in the Palace or even Don Gil of the Green Stockings.
And blessed are the meek who do not heed our warnings. For they will visit the hallowed Olivier auditorium and surely see tumbleweed trespassing in the aisles.
And those who ignore us should seek out offers or purchase the cheapest seats and move forward to inherit the more expensive ones, for surely there will be even more empty ones than at this unusually poorly-attended preview.
And forgive us for believing the Damned by Despair might test anyone’s faith (and patience).
And forgive us our rating. For it was a very close call and nearly even more lowly, but the broken glass must only be in Paradise Found.