What if Jesus returned to Earth as a transwoman? Would people listen to her? That’s the premise of The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven, a one-woman play written and acted by Jo Clifford.
The one-woman performance most recently toured in Brazil, performed 140 times to sold-out audiences. Clifford has recently come forth saying every cast member working on the show has “really suffered,” adding that “they’ve all received horrible death threats.”
"The last festival they did it at armed police turned up and started to dismantle the theater while the show was still going on and someone threw a smoke bomb into the auditorium."
The controversial play premiered at Glasgow's Tron Theatre as part of GlasGay! in 2009, attracting hundreds of protestors.
"It happened at a time when I had just started to live as a woman and every time I went out in the street people yelled abuse at me or laughed in my face or threatened me with violence or in many ways were just horrible to me,” Clifford, 68, told BBC Scotland.
"I could not understand why and I thought 'where does all this hostility come from?'"
She then read the Gospels and discovered there was “no justification for this kind of behavior." She continued, "It was absolutely clear to me that Jesus was someone who welcomed everybody, particularly those who were suffering from prejudice or rejection from the society around them.”
Moved and surprised by what she read, she created the play “an act of homage” to Jesus and Christianity, in no way trying to make light of the religion.
Still, much of the polarizing response has been positive. "Every time I go to Brazil I meet people, particularly trans people, who tell me with tears in their eyes that this show has really changed their lives.”
"It has changed the way they think about themselves," she concluded.
The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven begins in Edinburgh tonight, December 13, at the Traverse theater. The limited-run will go through December 22.