2000 years after that fateful day in Jerusalem, Judas Iscariot is up for trial in purgatory. With witnesses ranging from a sassy St Monica, to Sigmund Freud, to the Prince of Darkness himself, it is finally time to judge history’s most infamous traitor. Parallax Theatre’s production is a faithful interpretation of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ play, yet able to insert clever new additions to update the script for a contemporary audience, with new mentions ranging from veganism to Netflix.
The main content of the trial is an interesting mix of flashbacks to Judas’ life and death, and philosophical discussions with historical figures. From hell’s dive bars to Judas’ oubliette, the audience is shown the full extent of Iscariot’s post-death descent into despair. The Last Days of Judas Iscariot also explores ontology, theodicies and themes of free will. This has a lively, accessible presentation, never assuming the audience has read up on Christian theology or western philosophy.
It is hard to pinpoint a particularly outstanding performance, simply due to the all-round high-quality of the acting. This is most apparent from the astonishingly fast changes most of the actors make between multiple characters. The speed of costume changes in this play put most stage managers to shame. Clifford Hume’s brilliantly acerbic and bigoted judge, Stuart Walker’s heart-wrenchingly empathetic Judas, and Raef Alexander’s cruelly beguiling turn as Satan were joys to watch. Nevertheless, it is Laila Pyne’s strong, defiant portrayal of the defence attorney’s uphill struggle to bring an unpopular case to court that stands out most amongst the excellence.
The biggest flaws holding this production back largely originate from the script. The slightly non-sequitur introduction of a pantomimical St Matthew seems out of place in an otherwise humorous and smart play. Furthermore, some of the cumbersome dialogue occasionally gets the better of the actors, requiring them to restart sentences.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is a superb play about remorse and forgiveness. With a magnificently directed final scene, it promises to make any audience sympathise with the titular anti-hero like never before.
N.B. The performance seen by this reviewer featured an understudy doing a commendable job of the injured Moses Latif’s prosecutor. It is for this reason that his character has not featured in this review.
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