A longtime member of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s New York LAByrinth Theatre Company, Adly Guirgis is best known in this country for his critically acclaimed Jesus Hopped the A Train, which transferred from the Donmar Warehouse to the West End in 2002. This new piece, first seen at New York’s Public Theatre in 2005, is comic courtroom drama in which history’s most infamous betrayal is dissected by the forces of good and evil. Figures such as Pontius Pilate, Mother Theresa and Sigmund Freud are called to testify in a trial of God and the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth versus Judas Iscariot in a court that owes as much to the ghetto as the Gospels.
The Headlong Theatre production reunites Goold with his Macbeth creative team: designer Anthony Ward, lighting designer Howard Harrison and sound designer Adam Cork. The ensemble cast features Douglas Henshall (as Satan), Joseph Mawle (Judas) and Edward Hogg (Jesus) as well as Susan Lynch, Gawn Grainger, Joseph Mawle, Dona Croll, Corey Johnson, Amanda Boxer and Mark Lockyer.
Overall, first night critics enjoyed this “gloriously intoxicating brew” on a subject of faith that is “so unusual in the theatre at the moment”, with many drawing comparisons between it and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, which was revived by Headlong last year. Amongst the cast’s “high-octane” performances, Joseph Mawle – who played in the recent BBC mini-series The Passion - was particularly lauded for his “astonishingly fine” portrayal of Christ’s betrayer Judas. While the Daily Mail took serious exception to Adly Guirgis’ irreverent approach to religion, most other critics’ appreciated it, quibbling more about the length of the play (over three hours).
- by Kate Jackson