Director and producer Antony Law has achieved the not inconsiderable coup of staging his latest production in St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch. It’s a superb location that’s sure to appeal to adventurous theatregoers. Also commendable is Law’s taste in plays. A remarkable work by Stephen Adly Guirgis, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is a surreal imagining of a courtroom trial that aims to free Judas from hell.
Guirgis’ text rockets back and forth through history calling to the stand not just biblical figures but also Sigmund Freud and Mother Teresa. Sadly, Law’s direction doesn’t quite match the pace, so the production lacks the bravura appeal that the writing demands. More vitally, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot should be bitingly funny. Maybe the church atmosphere stifles the laughs, but the humour just doesn’t come through.
The production is ably guided by the prosecuting and defence councils, played with humour and skill by Michael Aguilo and Laurence Bouvard. Unfortunately, the rest of the casting is uneven. For all the strength of the play, it feels as if Guirgis has written devices rather than developed characters, and short scenes on the witness stand that should excite are played too long.
A notable exception is Shereen Russell who plays Saint Monica with a provocative streetwise style – her scene is one of the moments in the production that really works. And St Leonard’s fantastic acoustics are used to such great effect that, despite its flaws, the opportunity Law has provided for seeing this fantastic work is worth taking advantage of.
Until 19 May 2013
Photo by Sheila Burnett
Written 22 April 2013 for The London Magazine