Legendary Stud Brothers "Say Hey, Say What, Say Nothing"
Melody Maker, December 20-27, 1986, p. 18
THE FALL "HEY! LUCIANI" Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
IN 1984, David Yallop, an investigative journalist, published a book entitled "In God's Name". The book was an investigation into the death of Albino Luciani, better known to the world as Pope John Paul I, or Smiley.
After three years of intensive research and a huge advance from some unsavoury publishing company, Yallop came to the inevitable conclusion that the spiritual leader of nearly one-fifth of the world's population had been murdered. His book, a series of fantastic and unsubstantiated allegations, implicates certain high-ranking Cardinals, the Mafia, the P2 Masonic Lodge, leading-vatican bankers and anyone who was within a 1,000-mile radius of Rome at the time.
These interested parties, according to Yallop, had employed an Italian Solution to an otherwise insoluble problem -- the Pope knew too much, the Pope must die. The Vatican, and others, called the book "fanciful and absurd".
In 1986, Mark Smith chose to stage a play on the very same subject. He had to really, it was either this or a Le Carre-style thriller. His obsession with power, intrigue, convoluted headlines and institution as a method of social control made 'In God's Name" the seminal Mark Smith text for adaptation. Mark Smith though, being Mark Smith, has crushed 500 pages of inquisitionary detection into 90 minutes of Fall-Speak. This in itself is ambitious enough, but when he chooses to lace his work with sub-plots involving CIA-sponsored guerillas, Sudanese freedom fighters and the notorious Nazi, Martin Borman, he could justifiably be accused of megalomania. The Vatican was unavailable for comment.
Basically, it went something like this: Pope John Paul I, smiling, for he is the smiling Pope, standing an St Peter's balcony (small polystyrene archway): "God will not always provide."
Lucio Gelli, not smiling, for he is the all-powerful Mafia Man and freemason, in fake italian accent: "Don'ta fock wid mee."
Mark Smith, stage left, looking sensible: "Ramshackle defection ... ah ... of Sudanese death merchant ... ah ...terrorman Nazi."
The Young Luciani, prancing across the seven hills of Rome (small green polystyrene boulders), for he is balletomane and wanker, Michael Clark: "..."
Pope John Paul I, smiling, lying in bed on September 28, 1978, around 9.15pm: "Goodnight. Until tomorrow, if God wishes."
Bishop Marcinkus, masked fat man, good friend of the present Pope and all-bad egg: "Am agonna wipe dat stupido smile off hees stupido Popey face."
Mark Smith, looking serious: "He had a face like ... ah ... Rochdale Town Hall ...ah... perpetrating undercover medicine."
Sudanese terrorist sitting next to Martin Borman, clutching huge Russian-built machine-gun: "Drive the Zionist Oppressor into the sea!"
Sister Vincenza, arms raised in horror: "Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph! The Holy Father has died of natural causes!"
It's possible, of course, that Mark Smith was satirising Yallop's work, but not one person we spoke to afterwards could say for sure. It is also not beyond the realms of possibility that the dialogue meant something. We didn't know and, quite frankly, after an hour and a half of false moustaches, occasional Fall songs, inexplicable typing- pools, unnecessary costume changes, Leigh Bowery's inadequate clowning and dismally poor acting, we ceased to care about the fate of Smiley, ceased to be impressed by Smith's linguistic perversity, and called for an immediate and bloody end to Arts Council funding.
David Yallop and Mark Smith are two very weird people with singularly weird delusions. Smith's are, more often than not, fascinating; Yallop's are merely, exploitative. Both are unfathomable.