Bigger Than Jesus
Photo - Beth Kates
Outside of the Wharf Theatre a small group of people that I assume are Christians, of one denomination or another, are gathered around a fairly big picture or Jesus. Their intention isn’t really clear as they watch the audience meander in, but I can only assume that they’ve come down to the Rocks to remind us that nothing is bigger than Jesus. In hindsight of watching the show I can’t help but feel that they’re missing the point, a little like the knee-jerk reaction to John Lennon’s comments back in 1966.
In an interview for the London Evening Standard Lennon was quoted as saying ‘Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me’. It’s the final line of what Lennon said that resounds throughout Bigger Than Jesus where Rick Miller, as a multi-faceted Jesus, shares Jesus’ own story. For fans of religious conspiracy theories or alternate perspectives on the history of religion there’s not really anything new here, but it is in the deliverance of the Jesus myth that makes Bigger Than Jesus such a gem.
Miller is an impressive performer, whose control of his own voice and physicality allow him to seamlessly shift between characters as a chameleon does colours. The design work (Ben Chaisson & Beth Kates) appears simple, but the integration of pre-recorded, live projections and simple puppetry allows Miller to move through space and time without any awkwardness.
I’m not a religious person and have no formal religious education other than what was forced onto me as part of my public education yet I could glean from their reactions of some other audience members that there were subtleties to Bigger Than Jesus that I couldn’t understand. However no one in the audience walked out or appeared offended at all. The content that the show covers isn’t antagonistic and, as long as it is engaged with an open mind (this is art after all), should provoke discussion into Jesus’ historical role rather than debase his place in history.
Lennon isn’t right yet and we should be thankful for this, otherwise Bigger Than Jesus probably wouldn’t exist. Miller’s mass/lecture/performance is thoroughly engaging which is no mean feat for a single performer to hold the audience’s attention for well over an hour. If you’re set in your ways and not comfortable with the questioning of organised religion then Bigger Than Jesus is probably not for you… otherwise this is definitely worth a look.
Sydney Festival and Sydney Theatre Company
Bigger Than Jesus
Created by Rick Miller and Daniel Brooks
Director Daniel Brooks
Venue: Wharf 1, Sydney Theatre Company, Walsh Bay
Dates/Times: January 18-22, 25-29 at 8pm | January 22, 29 at 2pm | January 23 at 1pm and 5pm
Duration: 1hr 20mins, no interval
Tickets: $50 / $40 / Group 10+ $40 / Under 30 $30
Bookings: Sydney Theatre Company 02 9250 1777 | Sydney Festival 1300 668 812