Tonight we had the final part of our Lent Series – not a lecture this time, but a performance called ‘Kingdom Come: The Life of Christ’, a one-man performance by Eric Petrossian. Eric trained as an actor at Trinity College, University of Wales where he graduate with honours. He has also appeared as a stand-up comic, making it to the semi-finals of BBC Talent 2000.
We both really enjoyed the performance, despite, on my side at least my knowing that it was an amalgam of all four gospels – something I’ve commented on before. Essentially Eric told the Gospel story using a simple stage, and few props, and where characters spoke, providing voices. Certainly in the early part, the voices were used to lighten the first sections, partly to balance the heavier, more meaty parts in the second-half. There were also some pretty familiar sounding voices at times, for example, the devil, in the temptations sounds disturbingly like Marlon Brando playing the Godfather, and Nicodemus did sound rather like Sir Alec Guinness. Whilst listing those two out of context does make it sound rather strange, it actually was quite a clever vehicle allowing him to put over the characters without the benefit of any kind of scenery or costume. Certainly when you look at which voices were used with which characters, because we knew the voices, that then allowed us to associate those characters that we knew with the gospel characters.
Quite obviously, with the wealth of material in the four gospels, and only a ninety minute running time, there had to be some careful selection of material. He chose the birth narrative from Matthew, opening with the genealogy through Joseph from the beginning of that gospel, and going on from there. So it’s no angels and shepherds, instead it’s wise men, Herod, and the flight to Egypt. Although the opening was Matthew, there was quite a bit of John that was apparent, partly because Jesus, in the NIV version repeatedly says ‘I tell you the truth’ (the KJV being ‘Verily, verily I say unto thee’), but there seemed to be passages drawn from all the gospels. Interestingly there were sections, particularly a number of the sections where Jesus really harangues the Pharisees which we often don’t get in the normal lectionary, but from the point of view of understanding the story, are really important. So often with the lectionary readings it almost seems like the religious leaders pop up around Easter as pretty two-dimensional villains, here, by drawing on episodes such as the interrogation of the formerly blind beggar from John, and a number of the episodes where Jesus makes significant, and very direct public attacks on the Pharisees, it actually gives them more depth, and you get much more of the idea of the Easter story being the end of something that has built throughout the story.
Perhaps the most interesting part is the end of the play. The resurrection passages are primarily John, although the whole section where Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener is gone, instead when Mary looks up and sees Jesus standing there we cut straight to doubting Thomas. The play ends at that point, without opting for any of the ascension narratives, with the words of what is believed to be the original ending of the gospel at chapter 20, stating that Jesus performed many more miracles for his disciples that are not recorded in this book.
All in all it was an excellent way to round off our Lent series, and certainly if you get the chance to go and see a performance of the play by Eric, we would highly recommend it.