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The Man Jesus

Dundee Rep
Four stars
When a Morningside-accented Judas gives a two-part definition of the
word 'politics' in Matthew Hurt's ecclesiastical solo vehicle for Simon
Callow, the applause provoked by its second half suggests more than a
hint of recognition in its description  of politicians as annoying
insects in need of swatting. When Judas, seated at the centre of an
otherwise empty row of chairs awaiting the Last Supper, goes on to
describe the faithful rump of his former messiah's followers as
“masochists with a fetish for disappointment,” the silence that follows
is equally telling.

By this time Callow has already introduced us to many of the people who
shaped Jesus or where shaped by him in a version of the gospel seen
from a dozen points of view. Using a variety of largely northern
accents beside a pile of chairs, we first of all meet Jesus' mother,
Mary, and his brother, James. In Callow's hands these become
plain-talking Yorkshire folk, the apostles are hard-drinking Scousers
and Scots caught up in the moment, while John The Baptist educates his
cousin with the zeal of a Red Clydesider trade union leader.

As Callow darts ferociously between characters in Joseph Alford's
production, first seen at the Lyric Theatre Belfast, a portrait emerges
of the play's unseen figurehead as a charismatic radical and leader of
a revolution thwarted by a privileged establishment. If Callow's
versions of Herod and Pontius Pilate sound like Bullingdon boys at
play, it's surely more than mere coincidence. As the defeated dust
themselves down following Jesus' apparent demise, what's left is a play
about faith, hope and a very down to earth desire for change.

The Herald, September 29th 2014


ends

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