Show must go on? Resurrection? Or simply the luck of the Irish? In the latest of his line of renowned one-man plays, Simon Callow was due to take to the stage as the Messiah himself tonight in the premiere of The Man Jesus at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, but after this afternoon’s press photocall was cancelled “until further notice” due to illness, the press performance looked in doubt.
Praise be, though, the award-winning actor has recovered. In a press statement issued late today, Richard Croxford, artistic director of the Lyric Theatre, confirmed: “The show will go on. Simon Callow is feeling much better, and we are delighted to announce that the world premiere of The Man Jesus will open tonight and run until 20 April.”
The Man Jesus, written by Matthew Hurt, takes “us back to the precise moment in history when Jesus of Nazareth was living” to “experience his story as I imagine it felt and looked to the characters around him … This isn't an attempt to dismiss any of the spiritual dimensions of his life. Instead of looking at the Jesus of Christianity, I want to try to grasp the man religion claimed as its own before legend, politics and sectarianism distorted – for good or bad – the image we have of him.”
The play returns Simon Callow to Belfast, where he lived in the late 1960s while studying at Queen’s University. He has said of the production: “I can barely express my excitement at appearing on the stage of the most beautiful new theatre in Europe, at returning to the city where I studied and where I did my first acting, and at being involved in the world premiere of Matthew Hurt’s deeply moving new play about Jesus.”
At the end of the show’s run, Callow will deliver the annual Lyric Lecture on 21 April 2013 to celebrate the theatre’s second birthday. The Man Jesus follows Callow’s recent one-man presentations of Charles Dickens and Shakespeare.