13 April 2017
Bearing reality for humankind
As someone who grew up in Leeds, the idea of a Yorkshire-accented Jesus seemed entirely right and proper to me when I saw The Mysteries, Tony Harrison’s Yorkshire-dialect verse version of the medieval biblical playlets performed by crafts guilds from York, Wakefield, Chester and Coventry. That production started with the Passion story, staged outdoors on the Thames-side terrace of the National Theatre on Easter Saturday, 1977.
All the same, it was understandable that other parts of the country favoured locally customised texts: an impressive recent example was The Passion, a three-day promenade production performed at locations around Port Talbot over the Easter weekend of 2011, with Michael Sheen as Jesus, dragging his Cross past industrial estates and bus stops.
Easter (1901) by the Swedish dramatist August Strindberg is an infrequent instance of a seasonal piece of theatre that takes place during a relatively contemporary, as opposed to the original, Holy Week. Strindberg is known – from the brutal mind and body games of his most popular plays, Miss Julie and The Dance of Death – as a dark and violent playwright, but Easter, a domestic drama set between Maundy Thursday and Easter Eve, explores, unusually for this writer, the possibility of reconciliation and redemption.
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