One year on since the pandemic took hold, Queen Jesus Productions have continued their pioneering support of trans and LGBTQI+ theatre by sustaining two interlinked, evolving strands of work; the development of Scotland’s first all trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming performance ensemble and a programme of interactive digital art works inspired by Jo Clifford’s revolutionary play, The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven.
Looking to the future this April, audiences are invited to immerse themselves in the stunning surrounds of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh for a series of blessings. A Space to Bless is the centrepiece in a programme of events and gatherings next month – a space within Clifford’s queer utopia to gather and commune online for up to 15 minutes every day Monday 12 – Monday 26 April.
A follow on from a series of Sunday blessings released online in 2020, these brand new works will be livestreamed at noon from the Cathedral, with each daily chapter offering a gathering, a text, space for meditation and a blessing.
The five chapters will incorporate elements of The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven, reimagined in this unique setting – inspired by and respecting the building’s use, stunning physical features and fascinating history. There will be live BSL interpretation by Yvonne Waddell each day and all five chapters will be available with Closed Captions at the end of performance week.
The week will close with a screening of The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven, recorded as live and streamed from Augustine United Church in Edinburgh on Saturday 19 December and Sunday 20 December 2020.
The livestream performances will coincide with “Gender & Liturgy in conversation” – an online conference taking place over six days to discuss various themes and issues around gender and liturgy in the Scottish Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican tradition.
Revd Canon Marion Chatterley, Vice Provost, St Mary’s Cathedral, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Queen Jesus Productions into St Mary’s Cathedral for their week of live-streamed ’A Space to Bless’ events. Our Cathedral seeks to celebrate diversity, to welcome everyone into our prayerful space and to be a place where we are reminded that we are all loved equally and completely by the God who knows us and made us.”
Jo Clifford, writer and performer and founding director of Queen Jesus Productions said: “It is a real joy to be able to create something for Queen Jesus to livestream from the very beautiful St Mary’s Cathedral. It’s a great privilege and a great responsibility.
I was brought up in the Anglican tradition and it still remains very precious to me. I’ve been very moved to rediscover its beauty as I’ve been attending Evening Prayer every day there as part of my preparation for this event; and a real honour to be asked to contribute some thoughts to the “Gender and Liturgy in Conversation” event that the Catedral is hosting in the same week.
The Episcopalian church in Brazil has been incredibly courageous in its support for Queen Jesus during her persecution there, and it makes me really happy to be working their sister church here in Scotland on a programme of liberation for everyone.”
Meanwhile behind the scenes at Queen Jesus Productions, the ensemble; Sadie Godiva, Bibi June, Adam Kashmiry, Goose Masondo, Saerlaith Robyn McQuaid O’Dwyer, Kirsty Biff Nicolson, Bel Pye and EM Williams, with Stage Manager Fin Dickins and Director David Wood continue a bespoke programme of development and training. Members were first brought together as part of Queen Jesus’ 10th anniversary festival in 2019 – responding to an open call to take part in a new verbatim theatre piece called Untitled 2009, written by trans non-binary writer Nelly Kelly.
External expert sessions led by inspiring trans creatives at the top of their fields, including SHaySHay, Rebecca Root and Malik Nashad Sharpe aka Marikiscrycrycry will take place in tandem with writer Nelly Kelly’s further development of the ideas underpinning ‘Untitled 2009’ into a new play, written for the ensemble, which is supported by Playwright’s Studio Scotland’s New Playwright’s Award. The programme is being delivered online while restrictions are in place with an invited public reading of the work in progress play planned for spring.
Over the last 11 years The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven has had a profound impact on trans representation in theatre and on the thousands of people all over the world who have interacted with it. Queen Jesus will continue to grow its international reputation as the play makes its Australasian debut next month with Kristen Smyth in the iconic role, to be performed live as part of a new production for Melbourne’s Theatre Works and Midsumma Festival.
With the theatre industry under enormous pressures Queen Jesus Productions believes it is vitally important, now more than ever, to continue to represent, support and lift trans and LGBTQI+ voices onto our stages as we look forward to the theatrical gatherings that so many cannot wait to return to, when the time is safe and right.
The world is living through a continued time of widespread social distance, isolation, turbulent physical and mental health – but with some hope on the horizon. Queen Jesus Productions will continue to gather a community no matter where they are in the world, with April’s programme of events just the beginning for them in 2021.
For more information visit queenjesusproductions.com.
A Space to Bless, live from St Mary’s Cathedral – 12:00 BST daily on Monday 12 – Monday 26 April
The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven – 18:00 (BST) on Friday 16 April
One ticket grants access to all five chapters and the screening of The Gospel.
Tickets are on a sliding scale of free, £2, £4, £6, £8 or £10.
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Notes to Editors
About Queen Jesus Productions
Queen Jesus Productions is an award-winning theatre company based in Scotland on a mission to end trans and LGBTQIA+ discrimination, created originally to support Jo Clifford’s ground-breaking play ‘The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven’.
Formed in 2015 by founding directors Jo Clifford (writer and performer), Susan Worsfold (director and designer) and Annabel Cooper (producer), the company has toured internationally to a broad and diverse range of venues, from Belo Horizonte in Brazil to Belfast in Northern Ireland.
Our sister company, Queen Jesus Plays BR, has overcome censorship and violence to perform the play over 200 times in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Capo Verde, inspiring thousands and changing the face of Brazilian theatre for ever.
The company has continued to work throughout the pandemic, collaborating with Nelly Kelly, NTS and the BBC on 68 Months in Waiting, creating lockdown-responsive digital artworks under the banner of A Space to Bless, presenting a live-streamed performance for Christmas and supporting the evolution of Scotland’s first all trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary performance ensemble.