Modern take on Prodigal’s Son

Barnham’s Joe Harmston is both writer and director for a new musical exploring the parable of the Prodigal Son in the most modern of settings.

In Joe’s new take, one son is a gifted singer-songwriter, living a high life of excess and success; the other son, the elder brother, has joined the Scottish regiment to which their father has devoted his life.

While the father’s regiment battles to destroy heroin poppy fields in modern Afghanistan, his son fuels his band’s gigs with drugs.

The prodigal son flouts his father’s values, rejects his love and finally hits rock bottom. So what does he do?

Joe - who opens the show at the Edinburgh Festival - is promising a feast for the senses.

With kilts swirling from the stirring regimental scenes and bodies jumping to the UK’s latest pulsating sounds, The Prodigals offers high-energy choreography, great songs and a roller-coaster story of modern life.

Like any father, Colonel Luke Gibson must watch his sons make their own choices but when one life goes disastrously wrong what will the consequences be for him, his sons and the regiment?

For Joe, the fascination lies in all three of the characters, not just the Prodigal Son. Hence

the musical’s subtitle A Man Had Two Sons.

“I found the story very interesting for what it doesn’t say,” Joe said. “If you look at the parable, the really interesting thing for a modern audience is what happens at the conclusion. The Prodigal Son goes away and wastes all the money and comes back and the father is delighted and welcomes him. And a servant is sent out into the fields to find the elder brother and tell him that he must come to the party, but the older brother says no. He is the one who has stayed at home and worked and he wants to know why he isn’t being celebrated.

“Using the subtitle, I want it to be about all three people, the man and both his sons. It’s a really potent story that should be extremely resonant for modern parents. We have given it a completely contemporary setting. That’s the other thing I was keen to do. I wanted to find a community that was absolutely clear, that you were either in or out. It should be very clear that it is difficult to come back.

“I didn’t want it to be a religious setting because that would be too limiting. In the last few years we have come to understand the armed forces and the way that they work together much more clearly and we have a lot more sympathy with it. This was the setting we have used.”

The Prodigals will run at Edinburgh Fringe Festival until August 29 at The Gilded Balloon Teviot Debating Hall (Venue no 14), 13 Bristo Square, Edinburgh.

Tickets on 0131 622 6552.