Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Man Jesus

The Man Jesus
Grand Opera House, York
Simon Callow's return to the stage brings a new taken on what some would call the greatest story ever told. Leaving the world of Charles Dickens alone for the moment, Callow has turned his attention to The Man Jesus.

Matthew Hurt's one-man play sees Callow in fine form. He is alone on the stage for two 45 minute spells, with only lights and chairs for company. He adopts the personas of 12 key people - including Mary, Pontius Pilate and Lazarus - giving voice to their experiences, thoughts and opinions of Jesus (or the Jesus, as the name itself was more common at the time than is generally appreciated). Was he a miracle worker, conjurer, messiah or something else?

There are no ready conclusions arising from the play. The characters all have their own slant on the character of Jesus and they often contradict each other, thus retaining a large degree of ambiguity.

It's a difficult, intense play. The theatre was by no means full (I suspect it would have been for a Dickens performance). However, one doesn't need to be an expert on the life of Jesus to enjoy the play. I'm certainly not (far from it) and I was there to experience Callow's performance rather than to seek Biblical answers. Needless to say, Callow excelled, giving each character different accents (a Northern Mary, a Scottish John the Baptist...!) and body language. To inhabit 12 characters and present them with fully-formed identities is no easy matter, but he pulls it off with great aplomb. Miraculous.

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