Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

The man Jesus: Saviour of the show... ill Callow recovers to take to stage in Jesus drama

Simon Callow
Simon Callow

As they say in the theatre – the show must go on.

The world premiere of Simon Callow's one-man play The Man Jesus thrilled the audience at Belfast's Lyric Theatre last night.

There had been concerns the show would be cancelled after the veteran British actor was escorted from the stage after falling ill toward the end of a preview show on Tuesday night. Callow (63) was sweating profusely and complained of feeling faint 10 minutes from the end of the energetic 105-minute production.

Then last night the Lyric Theatre confirmed the actor – renowned for his Royal Shakespeare performances and hit movie Four Weddings And A Funeral – had made a "miraculous recovery" and was well enough to take to the stage.

No stranger to the one-man show, Callow has, in his time, played many of literature's largest characters – Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens and even William Shakespeare.

Now, as he says himself, he's "gone to the top floor" and tackles the character at the centre of the greatest story ever told.

Matthew Hurt's illuminating drama The Man Jesus attempts to look into the face of a man who once walked the Earth, and whose impact is still felt.

Jesus is the character who remains forever off stage and out of sight.

We can only ever know of him, what others have observed. And so Callow brings to life the family and followers, apostles and enemies of Jesus to talk about the man they knew. Through them, he begins to take shape.

The story is told on a blank stage, upon which a single, wooden chair sits.

A score of characters emerge from the past to tell their stories: bolshie John the Baptist, with his rallying call for change; Simon talks of the stranger he meets whose eyes draw him in and whom he falls in love with.

This is both a silent, sullen Jesus, and one brimming with charisma, who demands devotion.

A man uncertain of his fate, and one who knows the road which lies ahead.

Each personality that Callow brings to life adds another layer of flesh to the myth.

Callow's outstanding performance helps turn a picture-book image into flesh and blood.

Ecce homo.

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