Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed the son of god, has lived in infamy for the past 2,000 years for his betrayal of Jesus to the Romans. But is he as guilty as the bible would have us believe and does he deserve the condemnation that he has received within Christianity all this time? This is the central question in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot which is presented by Human Sacrifice Theatre.
The theatre company has assembled an excellent cast, twenty-seven strong, to bring to life Stephen Aldy Guirgis’ play, and the cavalcade of actors certainly makes for a lively and interesting production (although it can be somewhat difficult to remember who each performer is). Judas (Linc Hasler) is at the centre of the play which imagines a trial taking place in purgatory between two lawyers Cunningham (Holly Shanahan) and El-Fayoumy (Adam Mattaliano) and presented before the curmudgeonly old Scottish Judge Littlefield (Bruce Kerr). These performers who all give excellent performances are at the heart of the narrative and greatly assist the audience in making sense of the story.
It is through the conceit of a trial that we get to meet the major players in the story surrounding not only Judas Iscariot but Jesus Christ as well. We meet Mary Magdalene (Daniela Cristea), Saint Peter (Greg Pandelis), Simon the Zealot (Ross Black), Henrietta Iscariot (Gail Beker), Saint Thomas (Kevin Summers), Matthias of Galilee (Fabian Lapan), Caiaphas the Elder (Kristof Kaczmarek) and Pontius Pilate (Patrick Williams). In addition to this Satan (Mark Diaco), Mother Teresa (Frances Huton) and Sigmund Freud also make an appearance. One by one they are all trotted before us and present their views on Judas as a man and their opinion on his actions. Unfortunately neither Judas or Jesus Christ (Izekiel McCoy) are called before the trial, and instead we see their story in parallel to the trial itself, which seems to weaken the thrust of the play.
While the performances are all excellent, Bruce Kerr’s Judge, Kristof Kaczmarek’s Caiaphas, Mark Diaco’s Satan and Patrick Williams’ Pontius Pilate are standouts. The real problem though is not the performances or the competent direction by David Myles but is with the play itself. Stephen Aldy Guirgis’ script is full of verbiage and simply takes too long to get to where it’s going with a running time of 3 hours stretching the audience’s patience. The script is filled with characters, who while interesting to meet, never seem to be genuinely interested in resolving the ultimate issue of Judas’ guilt or innocence. Judas and Jesus are never called upon to explain their actions, which in part defeats the narrative purpose of having a trial, and the resolution of the story takes place outside of the courtroom which again seems to negate the entire premise of the play.
That being said there are some funny and genuinely dramatic moments in this play and it is worth going to see for the excellent ensemble Human Sacrifice Theatre have assembled. The music by Seismo and Richard Brownlee is beautiful and compliments the production nicely. Overall though we are left with an impression of Judas Iscariot formed through the opinions and hearsay of others; which while this may have been the author’s intention, somewhat disappointingly doesn’t shed any more light on the motivations of this mysterious figure, but perhaps that is the point.
Human Sacrifice Theatre presents
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
by Stephen Aldy Guirgis
Directed by David Myles
Venue: fortyfive downstairs | 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.
Dates: 12 - 30 May, 2010
Times: Tuesday – Saturdays 7.30pm, Sundays 6pm
Tickets: $29 full, $24 conc
Bookings: 03 9662 9966