Easter themed pieces across the UK on show this holy weekend to help you discover your religion or at least ponder it.
The Bible: An eagerly awaited recital of the King James Bible in its entirety. In celebration of the renowned publication’s 400th anniversary, the Globe Theatre is presenting a reading across 12 sessions in celebration of the oral tradition. A group of actors is to present the text, which was originally commissioned my King James I, in full; taking in total nearly 70 hours of recitation. One is not expected to sit throughout each session as late and readmission is allowed. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate this Easter than experiencing this epic text come to life. A review will soon follow.
Barbican Centre, London
Italian theatre practitioner Romeo Castellucci will be presenting this religious themed, if controversial, piece over the Easter weekend. Before the backdrop of a renaissance image of Christ, Castelluci is to explore the concept of Jesus as icon. Castelluci is well-known for his perfectionism, in fact just a few weeks ago he cancelled the planned show at the Barbican, an adaptation of Hawthorne’s The Minister’s Black Veil, because he did not think it was yet ready for an audience. A follower of the Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, it will be interesting to see how this emerges in Castellucci’s discussion of Jesus Christ. Should you be more interested in the theological, self-flagellation side of this holiday, than this is the piece for you.
Part of the London Word Festival and Co-curated by the Henningham Family Press, are throwing their own celebration for the 400th birthday of the King James Bible. The book is to be explored through various artistic mediums including literature, art, film, and music in an evening of performance. From the Garden of Eden to Noah’s Ark, expect a lively theological debate to take place.
Port Talbon, Wales,
What better place than a non-stop three-day theatrical event to have a religious experience! Michael Sheen in association with National Theatre Wales is to produce this play across his home town, involving hundreds of volunteers as well as a dozen or so professional actors. Sheen recalls: “I first saw the Passion Play at Port Talbot when I was about 12. It was a story I knew coming to life in front of me. A ritual taking place before me. A town remembering itself through a story.”
Pared down, sparse, back to basics – Peter Brook and his famous Bouffes du Nord’s interpretation of “Magic Flute” is far from the elegant, opulent affair that is Mozart’s famous opera. And, surprisingly, this concept of overlapping the realms of theatre and opera truly takes flight on the Barbican Stage.
One is never quite sure what to expect when entering the realm of the legend that is a Bouffe du Nord production. I was skeptical to see how this musical masterpiece would be reduced down to one piano and seven voices- and all within an hour and a half and no interval.
Yet all of the minimalistic parts fit so very well together as to make a magnificent whole. The juxtaposition of the pieces sung in the original German with interspersed spoken conversations in French added the texture required by the shortening of the story. The three witches are missing and in their place appear, as if by magic, two spirits who masterfully manipulate the simplistic, yet effective set of bamboo sticks and very little else. A setting which leaves a lot to the imagination. It is these two spirits who, with the greatest attention to physical detail, guide us along the narrative in a very nonchalant French style. The lighting by Philippe Vialatte is subtlety effective in differentiating the forest, Sarastro’s realm, and the Queen of the Night’s lair.
The voices of the singers are not perfect, but in the theme of simplicity, this feels excusable. Papagano was pleasantly underplayed, and cleverly executed. Many boisterous interpretations of Papagano have come and gone, but this performance portrayed a lasting wit and breadth of character. The real show stealers however were certainly the two light-footed spirits, clad in white, who added a sense of magic, irony, and intimacy to the scene.
Do not be fooled however, this is very much a Brook production with Mozart melodies. If you are an operatic purist, then this is not the production for you. If, however, you are willing to to see a re imagining of a classic opera then this production is an absolute must-see. Arguably one of the greatest directors of our age, Brook once again presents us with a sensory experience that surprises in the unexpected and makes us withdraw so far into this world of make-believe that we find ourselves encapsulated with the nascent, altruistic belief of a child.
For those that don’t already know, the brilliant John Malkovich will be gracing the London stage for a 2 night only event at the Barbican. In the Infernal Comedy, Malkovich will be the sole actor on stage and will be portraying the notorious serial killer Jack Unterweger to a score that includes pieces by Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. It promises to be a must-see and, as yet, it has seemed to have slipped under the perennial theatrical radar.
In another event at the Barbican, the theatre group, Duckie, who have said they like to mix the ‘arthouse with the dosshouse’, are putting together a piece that will take its audience through the night and in to their dreams. They are going to transform the Pit into a sleepy commune and have encouraged audience members to attend, clad in their nightwear. And what’s more, they provide breakfast first thing in the morning. It will certainly be a soporific experience and even at the hefty £40 price tag, will undoubtedly be a performance that will remain with you for a very long time, even if those memories will be swimming largely in your unconscious.