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The Gospel of Matthew (tour – Norwich)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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There is nothing reverential about George Dillon’s staging of the New Testament narrative, but it shows an immense respect for the story it tells. The effect is a bit like hearing Verdi’s Requiem for the first time, especially the “Dies irae” – you don’t need either faith or scepticism to be overwhelmed by its intensity.

Dillon has made his own translation of the text; phrases from the King James version deliberately clash with something more modern (though still satisfyingly literate). Swathed in white cotton, he is all the characters in fast overlapping array, from the narrator to those he encounters – be they friend or foe, from Jesus to Judas.

The background uses projections. Some of these are textual, both in Hebrew and in English. Others range from the abstract to the archival, so that we watch the progress to the Holocaust as well as the destruction of the Twin Towers. An x-ray of an unblemished hand hovers behind the story of the Crucifixion.

Some of this grated slightly for me. I can see why Dillon evades the words “synagogue”, “Sadducee”, “Pharisee”. I’m not so sure that “church” and “bishop” – which replace them – really make the argument more relevant. This 2,000-year old story is presented in such a way that it feeds our imagination (and peoples the stage) in its own right. It doesn’t really need any specific historical decoration.


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