Jo Clifford is a playwright, performer, proud father and grandmother who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is the author of about 80 plays, many of which have been performed all over the world. These include LOSING VENICE, EVERY ONE, FAUST, and THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE. Her GREAT EXPECTATIONS makes her the first openly transgendered woman playwright to have had a play on in London’s West End. She revived her GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN for the 2014 and 2015 Fringe. Also this year, Scottish Opera revived the opera James McMillan made from her INES DE CASTRO; her new adaptation of DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE toured the UK; Manchester’s Royal Exchange revived her ANNA KARENINA; and Dundee Rep revived her GREAT EXPECTATIONS (which was also performed in Tokyo). Next year she will be touring her GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS, QUEEN OF HEAVEN in the UK and Europe. Her translation of THE HOUSE OF BERNARD ALBA will be presented early next year in a co-production between Graeae and the Manchester Royal Exchange. She is writing a new play for the Royal Exchange and co-writing a new play for the National Theatre of Scotland, which she will perform in summer 2017. More info & her blog on www.teatrodomundo.com and @jocliffordplays.
Somebody has made a film about me on YouTube. The man is filming himself sitting in his car outside the church in which I am performing.
He tells the camera that what I am doing is against the Canon Law of the Church of England and he holds up a much thumbed book to prove it.
The book is the Canon Law of the Church of England, apparently, and it looks like it’s the poor man’s only line of defence against a disturbing and dangerous world.
A world that is disturbing and dangerous because I am in it.
He says he’s been invited in to talk about it but he can’t go in. He has to go and preach the word of the Lord.
And besides it’s perishing cold.
And he starts his engine and he drives away.
And as I watch him, I think: is this really about me? Am I obviously so dangerous?
Apparently I’m worse.
There’s another film just next to his which talks of me with the greatest scorn and derision.
But which at the same time warns its listeners that I am one of the ungodly men spoken about in the book of Jude (1:4).
That I’m bringing the grace of God into lasciviousness and immorality.
Worse even than that: what I am saying is blasphemous damnable heresy.
It is a sign, apparently, a sign of the Last Days and the imminent coming of the end of the world.
And my picture comes up on the screen and the voice says:
Here is the Demon playing Jesus.
And that’s me.
Why am I a demon? Demons are dangerous, aren’t they?
I thought I was a human being.
A human being with a woman’s passport and a birth certificate to tell the world I am female.
So why am I a danger? What have I done?
After years of trying to hide the truth from myself and from the world, I have begun to live as a woman. And I find, for the first time in my life, that I feel comfortable in my own skin.
Is that so very dangerous?
And I have written, and performed, a play which imagines Jesus coming back to earth in the present day as a trans woman.
A play in which she reminds her audience the most important thing in the Gospel is that we learn to love each other and that we do not pass judgement.
Tis that so dangerous?
It seemed like such an obvious thing to me and I still can’t really understand why it enraged so many people so much that they demonstrated in the street outside the theatre where I first performed it.
Or why an Archbishop should take the trouble to denounce me. As a dangerous affront to the Christian faith.
Am I so strong? Or the Christian faith so weak?
And why did hundreds and thousands of people feel it necessary to express their online anger and rage against me?
Is their sense of identity so fragile?
Or the whole structure of gender in our world so weak?
Is it because women are dangerous?
Or because when in my play Jesus tells us to love our neighbour it is the truth?
Is the truth so dangerous?
I don’t really understand. I don’t want to be dangerous. I want to be able to love my family, write my plays, enjoy beautiful music, cook delicious meals and enjoy the sensation of being true to my own dear self.
But perhaps these, too, are dangerous.
Perhaps to try to live a decent life in indecent times is dangerous:
A clear and present danger in so dangerous a world.