Fiercely embracing the wonderfully diverse cast of characters, including a sobering portrayal of history’s most infamous traitor, this production by Gamut Theatre Company is a zany, modern take on Stephen Adly Guirgis’ religious courtroom drama.
Staged in the upstairs space at Darlo Drama, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot gives a voice to the egregious disciple who is remembered only for his ultimate act of betrayal. Set in a courtroom, within the uncertain limbo that is Purgatory, the story of Judas Iscariot and his fateful betrayal of Jesus Christ is put on trial. The sexually depraved prosecutor and the fiercely committed defense attorney argue vehemently for their causes as the cantankerous judge presiding over it all must decide the fate and eternal legacy of the accused.
Christian theology recounts the story of Judas Iscariot as the central fable of disloyalty, painting the picture of a heinous man who was willing to sell out the Messiah for 30 pieces of silver. Guirgis’ play re-examines this historical event from a different angle, giving the idea of redemption and misconstrued truths a chance to be contemplated. As keen-eyed jurors, we sit by as a string of historical figures are called as witnesses to contribute their opinions and/or memories of Judas’ story. From a beatified religious figure to a renowned 20th century neurologist, the halls of heaven, hell and purgatory are thoroughly scoured resulting in a madcap assortment of individuals becoming a part of this story.
The mammoth cast of characters is managed with vigour by the 11-member ensemble, some showcasing more strength than others. Melinda Jensen brought a truthful duplicity as Pontius Pilate, embracing both the defensive exterior and the contrasting vulnerable interior. Stephanie Reeves was strongest as Henrietta Iscariot, giving an earnest portrayal of Judas’ wistful mother. James Sugrue imbued a sincere poignancy in his rendering of Judas, providing a multi-faceted view of the character. Sugrue was also fantastic in the role of Sigmund Freud, compelling us purely with the authenticity of his portrayal. Nicole Florio was the one you couldn’t take your eyes off as she commanded the audience with the conviction and intimidation you would expect from the Prince of Darkness himself.
The lighting (James Smithers) design worked best when combined with the charmingly aesthetic scenic design (Jo Felstead-Hill) and sound design (The Company), most ostensible in the scenes at sea.
Glen Hamilton’s direction is bold, quirky and catapults these characters into the 21st century with verve. Hamilton gives us a rapping saint and a hippie apostle which adds to the ludicrous nature of the play. The extremity of this zaniness is juxtaposed with some moving moments and heartfelt speeches however the production could have drawn the audience closer and conveyed a stronger message with even more moments like this. We needed a visceral impetus in order to seriously consider the ideas of humanity and redemption, where those lines are drawn, what the limits are and especially, how the human conscience and psyche reacts to betrayal and how empathetic we can expect the response to be, no matter the circumstances.
Venue Darlo Drama (Darlinghurst), 8th to 14th Dec 2019
Director Glen Hamilton
Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis
Cover Photo and Production Shots by Craig O’Regan
DISCLAIMER: This and all other reviews posted by A Millennial with an Opinion/JTA Official/Jessie Trompp are the honest personal opinions of a theatre-goer and are not reflective in any way of the opinions of others who have seen the production.