NEON is a story that came to be over quite a long time. And I’m not just talking about the year or so it took from me jabbering on in the local pub about Gods and purple light (in fact to be honest that’s a relatively tiny part).
It’d be an understatement to say that grappling with the very concept of faith comes with a certain set of controversies and challenges. Having been raised in a fairly conformist, Methodist family just outside of Stockport, a good percentage of my life was spent with the mentality that ‘God’ was untouchable. He/She/It just ‘was’, and that whatever that happened to be knew best at all times. No questioning.
7-year-old me could go along with that. I enjoyed the rituals; putting on a good shirt, polishing my shoes, hearing the church bells through the air. There was a collective; life had its meaning in this little, tight-knit group.
Life doing its thing didn’t come till I was about 17, with the loss of my mother. Faith, in a way, insinuates a trust between oneself and the spiritual being, and when that aforementioned spiritual being starts taking the very things you’d prayed for it to protect, that trust becomes a whole lot more difficult. You start to question its validity, whether it is right. Insinuations that such things are all ‘part of the plan’ made me, as an understatement, quite angry. It shouldn’t have, they were only trying to be kind, they honestly believed it, but I just couldn’t see it anymore. Suddenly, ‘my God’ became ‘their God’, and their God was a selfish one. He took people before their time and in the process, I became lost.
Forgive me for meandering, however I still find it fascinating that I’m drawn to write about it as a reality. I still find myself categorically unable to discuss religion without subliminally insinuating that the deity exists. I think when I lost my faith I lost my trust more than anything, but when you’re shouting at the void there’s still hope for a reply.
None has come yet.
Unsurprising to half of me, disappointing to the other.
Then again, has anyone heard from this deity for a good 2000 years? Segue into NEON, which I guess has been a form of catharsis for me. Writing has allowed me to humanise and personify my grievances and aggravations, allowed me to have conversations I could never have had. 3 years after everything happened, I feel enough dust has settled to sit down and have a proper talk with whatever the hell is out there.
God is, in this play, named John Doe. He’s sweary, selfish and close to irredeemable. He’s also incredibly lonely. 2000 years is a long time to have lost your ability to do anything, whilst watching your following slowly dwindle.
Reading this over, I realise I sound horrifically anti-Christian. I’m not. The play isn’t either. I’ve instilled an ever-growing sense of hope throughout it because, well, what are we without it? The people John encounters aren’t world leaders or religious fundamentalists. They’re human beings trying to get through life. The sledgehammer that God is a sweary bloke that can freeze time and drinks your orange juice hits home, yes, but life still carries on. As it would.
I’m hesitant to mention the current political climate; after all, we’re all constantly surrounded by it at the moment. However, it’s difficult to ignore. If ever there were a time for divine intervention of any kind, it would be now, and yet still all remains silent. In which case, though He clearly has a plan and is very much sticking to it, I’ve taken matters into my own hands. Writing has always been some kind of way for me to write out situations I wish had happened, hoping it connects with others. I’m forcing God to take action and, in a way, finding my faith anew. Not the old kind, something fresh. Because that’s what God is… isn’t it? Finding faith again when it’s most needed? Or better yet, being able to restore it in someone else?
Jasper Frost (the director), and the ten others that make up NEON have crafted something truly wonderful from what I’ve written. Yes, there are funky lights and some remarkable acting, but at the show’s core there lies a group of people trying to figure this whole thing out and keep on keeping on. Do any of them really know? Are any of them right? I can’t answer that question. Either that, or I don’t want to. You should come and find out.
NEON performs at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre, 6th-8th August, 4:30pm
@ July 2018 London Pub Theatres Magazine
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