As seen on the nightly news, religion can be one of the world’s great dividers. And for gay men and lesbians searching for happiness within the boundaries of the world’s major religions, relationships and sex can lead to complex soul-searches.

This is the dilemma facing The Rood Screen‘s Theodora, a raised-Catholic lesbian on a complex theological journey.

Writer Donna Abella was inspired to tackle the topic after watching gay and lesbian Catholics of the Rainbow Sash movement try -“ and fail -“ to take Communion every year.

I’m always interested in the politics of exclusion, Abella told Sydney Star Observer.

The question I asked myself when writing this play was, -˜What is it like to feel excluded?’ Theodora wonders if loving a woman means she’s out of communion with the universe. She realises during the play that her love is just another form of communion, that it’s just another form of diversity.

Written in less volatile times, The Rood Screen script included several digs at religious figures. Abella said she had been questioned about the possible danger of ridiculing religion in 2006.

The forces of conservative religion are strong and getting stronger, she said. I haven’t written the play to stir up trouble, but people with fundamentalist beliefs come in for ridicule in the play, although we don’t name anyone.

This is the first time The Rood Screen has made it onto stage. Written as part of old Mardi Gras’s curated festival program, it was included in a play reading as part of the Mardi Gras 2001 festival, and again during the cultural program of the Sydney Gay Games. The script was also short-listed for two international awards.

For its first onstage outing the nine-member cast and crew, including director Anna Messariti, have done amazing work, Abella said.

We’ve been really ambitious with the production. There’s a lot of sophisticated movement on stage, a composer on board who has composed a full score for nine voices.

I think everyone’s really pleased with the result. It was written with a queer eye for a queer audience, and so far the audience reaction has been very positive.

The Rood Screen is playing at Darlinghurst Theatre until Saturday 25 February. Bookings on 8356 9987 or at the Darlinghurst Theatre website.

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