(Tim Walker's reveiw appeared in the Telegraph, 10/8.)
The theatre is helping me to become a lot better acquainted with Jesus and his family. After Fiona Shaw brought his mother so movingly to life in The Testament of Mary earlier this year, Simon Callow now turns his attentions to the Son of God. Naturally, Callow does not essay him – Biblical scholars suggest that he was in his 30s when he was crucified and Callow is 65, if he is a day. Instead, he affords us a 360-degree view of the Messiah by playing a multiplicity of characters who figured in his life, such as John the Baptist, the fisherman Simon, Lazarus, Judas, Mary, Joseph and Pontius Pilate.
With Matthew Hurt, the writer of this involving, intelligent piece, Callow understands – as Shaw did in her production – that it is the banal little insights that bring great men and momentous stories to life. Callow thus captures all of Pilate’s neuroses, as well as his sense of showmanship. There is perhaps more than a touch of Peggy Mount in Sailor Beware! in his Mary, and Billy Connolly must surely have inspired his earthy John the Baptist. But I have no problem with this: it is working-class voices that Jesus would, after all, have heard during most of his life.