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Angel
one-man, one-act play


Broadway Baby   pdf version
other reviews on arberyproductions.co.uk
Produced: London 2012, 2013, 2014
Published: Arbery Books 2015






Take This Body

"Did you set out to destroy my faith? Or were you just playing with words, debating as we did at school and seminary?"


At the end of the day a middle-aged priest welcomes a guest into his home. A glass of wine is offered. The two men sit and a conversation slowly begins. The unseen visitor is young, confident, enigmatic; his host is nervous, unable to settle, his attention returning again and again to the Virgin and Crucifix which watch over him.


For years the priest has devoted his life to God and fought daily against the temptations of the flesh. Now, fearing for his immortal soul, he confronts the man - or angel or demon - who haunts him. Tonight the conflict must come to its end.


First produced in London as part of a series of one-man plays in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014, Angel is a rare depiction of conflict between desire and faith and the spiritual agony that celibacy imposes. It is also unusual in the current obsession with paedophilia in that it portrays a priest who is not attracted to children. The published script includes the original short story on which the play was based.


Extracts


Believe it or not, I know women - and not just because I'm chaplain in a girl's school, with all the teachers and mothers. My whole life I've been surrounded by women. Everywhere I go there are women. I need only stand outside the church for a few minutes and some woman'll come up to me. For advice. To gossip. To offer help if they think I'm lost. Men don't do that. Men keep their distance.


Then there are the women who ask "are you happy being a priest, Father?" It's usually the young ones, but not always. You know what they mean even if they're too shy to say it. Some come straight out with it: "Are you never tempted, Father?"


Angel by Martin Foreman
playscript
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Performing rights


2014 London poster

Most of the time it's curiosity, but sometimes it's . . . an invitation. You can see it in their eyes, wide open, searching. Their body language, so subtle you'd hardly notice it. Chest a little forward. Their mouth almost offering a kiss. What they really want to know is are they so feminine they have the power to seduce even a man of the cloth?


What do I tell them? We're all tempted, I say, but prayer can save us all from sin.


And yet, you know something, Michael?


Most of the time it was me, not them, that wanted to sin, that was desperate to sin. I would want every woman I saw, teenager, grandmother, all the ages in between. I would long for warm skin and flowing hair, light perfumes and earthier scents. My eyes would be lured by breasts and rumps, high heels and make-up, all the symbols of femininity.


For ten or more years, Michael, night after night, I made love to women. My hand rested on firm ripe bosoms; my mouth kissed soft red lips. I unzipped skirts and watched them fall, flicked open bra clasps with agile fingers. Again and again in that bed upstairs, I satiated my lust with every woman who crossed my path and took my fancy.



In my early teens it was an occasional request, asking the Almighty to send me a girl, any girl, I might love. By the time I was twenty, and throughout my training, I begged every night for a woman to fulfill me. If there might be just one, I pledged, one woman whose body and soul enticed me, I would give up my vocation for the peace that she offered. If she were married I would swear my chastity to her. Whatever sin she had committed, I would absolve her. Whoever that woman might be, I would devote my life to her, for whatever hell she might cast me into would be heaven compared to the hell in which I lived.



You left, untouched, and I congratulated myself. A week later, I called you back. This time, I touched your hair, held your body and buried my head in your neck. You responded gently, as if with a lover. Suddenly angry with my desire and your complicity, I pushed you away, poured another drink and insisted we talk about something, anything, art, music, the strength of Beethoven, the lure of the French romantics. Anything to keep us apart. And another hour passed and I gave you money and you left.



I remember you saying that the longing for God and the fear of God are no proof that God exists. We were in the kitchen, drinking the same bad shiraz. Those words have haunted me ever since. At the time, I retorted with Pascal's Wager - if you believe in God and he doesn't exist you have lost nothing; if you believe in him and he does exist, you have won everything. You made no response then but the next time we met you pointed out that Pascal's Wager demonstrates not God's existence but man's despair.




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