Director – Bryon Fear
A difficult review for me to write, as a member of South London Theatre since 2011; and some of the performers and creatives being my personal friends.
If every tongue was still the noise would still continue…
There had been so much love for this production floating around, so I was very excited at the prospect of finally seeing it on the 27th of August, I was lucky enough to see it on the last night, and yes, the hype was to be believed.
The castings couldn’t have been more perfect, everyone pulled their weight vocally. Alley Bilodeau gave a stunning and soothing portrayal Mary Magdalene, Marcus Reeves gave quiet power and malice as Herod. Richard Canal, Adam Crook, Jason Salmon and James Griffin took sinister to a whole new level as Caiaphas, Annas and co, bordering on the comical, but never once becoming caricatures.
All the vocal transitions were seamless, every emotion oozed through the cast’s tone and performance, far from over the top, sugary or too showy..The violent scenes were just enough, and at times very difficult to stomach, especially as I was sat quite close to the stage. More importantly it helped me remember that Jesus Christ, if he ever existed, really was just a man, a human being of blood and bone, making what happened to him utterly horrific.
Jesus Christ was played by American Sean Mullaney, very much the Christian biblical textbook represention of Christ, a perfect look, hair and build. He had all the vocal variation for a soulful Jesus, and one thing I admired greatly was his ability to keep a neutral singing voice,matching his fellow performers, not once did he sound American.
With Jesus Christ Superstar being a rock opera , there is a tendency for the Messiah and co to go all out heavy metal hysterical and screechy; but Sean maintained a soft and understated yet solid portrayal of a man in turmoil, coming to the end of his life.
Much the same sentiments go for Judas…Though I have always battled with the fact that Judas is so hated in the Christian religion.If it was God’s plan for Judas to fulfil his role in betraying Christ, allowing for the spilling of Jesus’s blood, which in turn allowed for the washing away of mankind’s sins, isn’t it madness to vilify him…? But that’s enough of my Humanist debating fodder..
Dan Goad’s portrayal of the insecure tortured disciple was heart breaking,in as much turmoil as his leader, facing a painful demise, Dan was wonderful at blending in, subtly unsure where he fitted in his collective, Judas’s peripheral loitering spoke volumes.
Chaz Doyle as Simon Zealotes was a pure delight to watch and hear, bouncing around gleefully yet with a strong conviction, Mat Hill’s Peter was also a joy, gentle and vunerable. Along with the remaining disciples, the mob came together well throughout joyous scenes and mournfully through the more harrowing ones, nothing seemed contrived just organic and justified.
Now to the most difficult scenes of the whole show, Jesus’s trail, 39 lashes and crucifixion. A special tip of the topper goes to Wesley Lloyd who played Pontius Pilate, a part he played with brilliance, getting the intellectual Roman placed in a difficult situation spot on, not once raising his voice, maintaining a cool politician-esque stance throughout.
Speaking to Wesley about his portrayal; he shared with me the quote Marlon Brando gave about playing Mafia Godfather Don Corleone. Wesley explained that Brando’s quote inspired his approach to the part of Pilate – “He’s a powerful person. Powerful people don’t have to shout.”
The crucifixion was extremely moving, I was touched by the sight ahead of me, Jesus hanging in mid air, alone centre stage, on an invisible cross for at least five minutes.What more can you convey?
An optical illusion of epic and exhausting proportions.. Beads of sweat poured from Sean Mullaney’s head and body, remaining there, by all accounts was extremely painful and required a great deal of control. This proves the level of dedication this company gave to this production, a dedication that the audience aren’t likely forget.
The only technical hitch apparent on the night was the occasional cutting out of the radio mics. This was due to the extreme humidity of the venue, the perils of a summer production. But this hitch in no way hampered the sheer joy of experiencing this production, I am so proud to say I was there to bear witness to this spectacle.
Post show I heard the director remarking to performer Dan Goad (Judas) that the performance was “their best of the week “.
It was evident that on and off stage there was an abundance of warmth and love poured into this show, the creative direction by Bryon Fear was superb, the choreography by Anna Callender utterly charming, and the musical direction by Gerard Johnson + band was right on the money.
The sartorial offerings were classical with modern twists, the set design and lighting simple yet profound.The only indulgent prop was a flashing disco cross for the ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ number, Judas rocking out in a modern day suit with backing girls adorned in black..On a personal note, I have always imagined Judas in a silver catsuit?…Must be just me then…
Simply put, it touched my heart, I’m just gutted I wasn’t part of it!…
In productions like this one you really do reap what you sew, every ingredient was right to create a magical experience, it doesn’t get much better than that. But surely there has to be the force of luck at play, and perhaps even a divine one? We shall forever ponder…
Photos by kind permission of © Gaz de Vere – All Rights Reserved.
Production poster designed by © Bryon Fear