City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Man Jesus, Brunton, Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 27 September 2014

Show Details
The Brunton
Ros Povey, Zoë Simpson and Seabright Productions
Matthew Hurt (writer) Joseph Alford (director), Fiametta Horvat (set and costume design), Mark Howland (lighting design), Alma Kelliher (sound design)
Simon Callow
Running time: 

ecce homo

It is a mark of the stature of an actor that he gets a round of applause just for stepping on the stage. It is unconventional when the stage is set for a play in which he stars but that was the reception that met the well- known figure of Simon Callow as he walked on to the white floor of the Brunton stage.

Playwright Matthew Hurt’s play The Man Jesus is an attempt to look at Jesus of Nazareth through the eyes of the main characters in the gospel to find something of the human being whose impact has been immense despite his short and strange time on earth.

At no point is Jesus of Nazareth himself portrayed. Instead Callow takes on the various characters from a young pregnant Mary through selected disciples to John the Baptiser(sic) to Barabbas and Pontius Pilate. For the authority figures like Pilate and Herod, he uses the plummy diction we are used to hearing from Callow, but for the rest of the characters, he uses a range of working class dialects from across the north of England and lowland Scotland. It is accepted that Jesus himself spoke Aramaic, a local Galilean dialect, so it is right that the voice of his compatriots were not of the establishment. Interestingly, Judas has been allocated the speech patterns of what is recognised as a Morningsider/Kelvinsider.

Hurt’s language is inventive and funny as his pen injects life to these long dead and mythologised people and parables. He writes of the power held in the eyes of Jesus and a humanising of miracles with an emphasis on the will to live better. The chaos of church chairs piled in a corner is the only prop and their being rearranged on stage can be read as a metaphor for church fragmentation and disarray. The message of common cause, hope, openheartedness and choosing light over darkness, along with the text’s other political overtones was difficult to listen to without seeing parallels of recent events in Scotland, particularly with the use of local accents.

From annunciation to condemnation to resurrection Callow gives a stout performance that is, to say the least, an impressive memory feat. His portrayal of Pilate is a self -referential theatrical performance with a new take on the hand washing scene. In the first act, the characters’ names or at least the event where they featured appeared on a back screen, but as the play progressed, and some accents slipped it became a bit confusing. Who was the Liverpudlian again? It may have felt like spoon-feeding to continue the screen prompts but with the voices of so many characters appearing and only Callow’s subtly smart casual gear as costume, things get a bit hazy towards the end. This is a fine vehicle for Callow’s range of talents and a very human take on an incredible man’s life.

Friday 26 September 7.30pm
Tour continues