Review: Love the Sinner (Tron Theatre)
Updated: Jul 28
An invitation to a dark underbelly of millennial sins
Photo Credit: Andy Ross Images
Performance poetry could be so much more than it is often allowed to be. As much as I love poetry that amazes you with its wordplay and its layers of allegory and metaphor, it’s a genre that deserves more shows that are a little more fun and a little less smart; shows that appeal to wide audiences waiting to be entertained rather than just Literature graduates waiting to be impressed. Enter Imogene Stirling, and Love the Sinner. Directed by Matthew Lenton and aided by musician and sound artist Sonia Killmann, Imogen Stirling transforms her written poetry collection into a staged performance, where we meet the seven deadly sins as Glaswegian characters, each with their own failings and vices.
Stirling delivers her storytelling in front of an imposing light display, flanked by columns of phone-shaped neon lights, with a fog of dry ice lingering in the air. It sets the tone perfectly. She adopts that breathy delivery of performance poetry, where the emphases are in odd but pointed places, and infuses the story with character and an appropriately sinister quality. Sarah Carton's score fits immaculately, as do Killmann's backing vocals that bring out the best in Stirling’s verses.
The content of her poetry has an engrossing structure, as we move through the rainy streets of Glasgow discovering the incarnations of each sin. Greed is gentrifying the neighbourhood, Sloth can barely bring herself to leave her bed, and Lust has an addiction to porn that has warped his understanding of love, just to name a few. It keeps you on your toes about how the next will be characterised, and the portrait they paint of their (largely millennial) sinners.
But since we only see glimpses of each character none of the topics are approached in depth. If you come looking for a nuanced consideration of porn and addiction you won’t find it here. Worse still, it would be all too easy to read many of Stirling’s “sinners” as stigmatised victims of mental illness. Lines like “snowflake by name, snowflake by nature” are clearly tongue-in-cheek, but aligning mental illness with immorality with lines like “sins buried under labels” to describe Sloth’s depression will cut a little too close to the bone for some.
The final message of the performance, to embrace sin rather than feel damned by it, goes some way to redeem that flaw, but it is too briefly summarised and not sophisticated enough to completely absolve it. But first and foremost, Love the Sinner is an entertaining performance. It’s creepy yet comforting and has a seductively dangerous tone that can charm audiences whether they arrive as poetry fans or not. Not just any poetry performance can do that. Questionable though the mental health themes may be, the atmosphere makes up for it. Before you know it, you are sitting snuggly in the palm of Stirling’s hand. Four stars.
Love the Sinner has completed its run at Tron Theatre.