The story of Father Damien de Veuster, the leper priest of Molokai and patron saint of outcasts, comes to Brighton in the play Damien by Aldyth Morris (The Lantern Theatre @ ACT Brighton, May 29-June 1).
Spokeswoman Janette Eddisford said: “In the mid 1800s leprosy struck Hawaii. Labelled as ‘legally dead’ sufferers, mainly native Hawaiians, were segregated and abandoned to live in bleak isolation with no social, medical or legal support. No one without the disease would remain on the island, no one until Fr Damien, who on his first visit to this lawless place of horror, not only stayed but built a community.
“Fr Damien de Veuster, now St Damien, is less well known in the UK, but he is a celebrated figure in his native Belgium and adopted home of Hawaii. He was voted the Greatest Belgian of all time in 2005, and on the occasion of his canonisation in October 2009 then President Barack Obama sent both a delegation and a message of admiration to the Vatican.
“Damien was a priest, a healer, a community leader and an early human rights activist and a catalyst for the current movement to eradicate neglected infectious diseases. He is the spiritual patron of the outcast and those afflicted with Hansen’s disease and HIV/AIDS.
Damien is played by Daniel Finlay whose father was the late Frank Finlay (The Pianist, The Three Musketeers).
“In this passionate, one man show, actor Daniel Finlay channels the powerful stories of the challenges that Damien experienced while serving a community of exiled lepers on a remote Hawaiian island in the 1870s and 80s, until his own life was taken by the affliction on April 15, 1889.
“Canonised on October 11 2009, Fr Damien is the prototype of the celebrity saint. Whatever their religious convictions a celebrity saint is someone whose moral heroism makes them a media sensation and fires the imagination of the world, a modern example being Bob Geldof or Mother Teresa.
“In his lifetime, Damien became internationally famous, the focus of huge press attention as well as the subject of books and the recipient of awards. Damien’s life was not without controversy. He had an ambivalent attitude to authority and was the subject of both scandal and criticism.”