The Last Days of Judas Iscariot roots the bible in a modern context, making it an incredibly engaging and thoroughly enjoyable play. On entering the theatre, the first thing that struck me was the set design. It appeared threatening, yet instantly grabbed my attention. Indeed, this set the tone for the entirety of the performance. Set between the threshold of heaven and hell, each represented through opposing colour-coded graffiti, the play imagines how the trial of Judas would play out.
The play references numerous famous biblical figures, including St. Peter and Matthew. However, it also intertwines the biblical aspects with current psychological issues – such as whether people can be held responsible for their actions if they are mentally ill. The inclusion of this perspective on Judas’ sin gives the audience a light relief from the complexities of the biblical narrative. For me, the flashback to Judas’ childhood was excellently done and allowed the audience to judge Judas’ character for themselves. Was he purely evil? Or was just misunderstood?
All actors gave strong and engaging performances. Genevieve Cunnel’s portrayal of the attorney Fabiana Cunningham is excellent, and gains in energy and emotion throughout the performance. Another character who particularly stood out was Henrietta, played by Aimee Gaudin. Her performance was humorous, and gained numerous laughs from the audience. A major strength of the performance was its ability to combine the serious element of Judas’ sin with colloquial language and expletives.
Enjoyment of the play does not require familiarity with the bible. The characters in the play are modern reconstructions, and thus can be easily understood without any knowledge of religion. Judas’ trial provokes many moral questions, however, the sheer amount of witnesses in the play can at times be confusing. Despite this, all of the actors give convincing accounts of each characters opinion.
The costumes were effective in the context of the play. They were largely everyday clothes. I felt that Satan’s red velvet jacket was particularly appropriate for the character and made him instantly recognisable. Jesus’ clothing defied the traditional notion of Jesus as a bare footed preacher. At first, I found his clothing unremarkable. However, as the performance progressed, I began to see how it created a stark contrast to Satan’s polished look.
Overall, I would thoroughly recommend this play. It is full of dramatic twists and turns, and there is never a dull moment. As well as being enjoyable, it calls into question the morals of the bible and the characters within it. I left the theatre undecided as to whether the verdict of Judas’ trial was fair. For me, the mark of an excellent play is leaving the theatre questioning the ending.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 23rd.