A glamorous drag queen performs in a creaky, old East End pub. The locals aren’t too impressed but there is some kind of connection between her and one old regular. Eventually, the pressure of performing in the crowded pub becomes too much and our drag queen bolts the stage. The regular and his son argue about whether the father should go and speak to her. In the end, the older man slips backstage when no one else is watching. The conversation between the man and the drag queen is awkward at first but they are soon joking about her taste in music and his favourite song. Just as we learn they are father and son, they begin to argue about the past. Our drag queen stole money from her father and ran away from home, but only after not being accepted for who she was by her family. Just as things might resolve, the father’s other son, and the drag queens brother, barges in and convinces his father to leave. Outside, the father’s mates turn to leave, while he pauses by the door to the pub. Inside he can hear his favourite song being sung by the drag queen.
The core message from the parable of The Prodigal Son, that there is always the chance for redemption, love and forgiveness, lies at the heart of my story. When contemporising a biblical story one of the key challenges is how to depict the presence of God, whether originally literal or metaphorical. Here, rather than have the father represent an all loving God, he is portrayed as a human character, complete with flaws and internal conflict. Thus, I’m shifting the meaning of the parable away from the explicitly religious, towards the humanistic – humanity’s capacity for forgiveness, reconciliation and acceptance of difference. Imbuing the father with humanity and the richness of internal conflict allows me to explore the context in which Jesus told the original parable. Jesus spoke in the temple in Jerusalem to teach the overly zealous audience to stop unfairly casting judgement upon those they believed to be impious. In my story, the father is likewise constrained by the rules of his social world, as embodied by his other son and the men in the pub. The message of my story echoes the sentiment of the parable – to curb your own prejudice and leave judgement to God.