The Gospel of Us (2012)
Rated M, violence. Starring Michael Sheen
Putting arms and legs on Jesus has been a challenge for historians. Trust a theatrical company to come close.
Easter 2011 was an eventful time for Port Talbot in South Wales, where National Theatre Wales and Wildworks staged a passion play from a script by Owen Sheers.
Film director Dave McKean took along his camera, framed the open-air and indoor performances, and edited both into a two-hour film, The Gospel of Us, released first in 2012. (According to one report the film was 145 minutes, but my DVD copy is 115 minutes.)
There is a strong local contingent involved.
Not that the main character of this play is exactly Jesus — the key player is called ‘The Teacher’. But the elements that make up the passion of Jesus are intact: a baptism into fire, Gethsemane, trial, scourging, crucifixion, and even opening gospel passages such as the calling of James and John and the loaves and the fishes.
It is all done inventively, including a richly filmed scene where ‘The Teacher’ seeks his identity.
The Gospel of Us is a modern take, not a literal interpretation. It is cerebral and emotional.
The last supper in a club is eye opening as this Christ-figure expresses his humanity.
Sometimes we may struggle to view Jesus as truly human. ‘The Teacher’ (Michael Sheen) tells his ‘disciples’ (read: friends) how he is happy to have them in his life. He needs people and enjoys being with them and listening to their stories.
He dances to rock and listens to Paul Potts singing operetta. (Later, he sleeps on a mountainside.)
He’s lost, but his remoteness comes from loss of memory of his identity.
You don’t have to go along with all of The Gospel of Us (I didn’t) to appreciate that humanizing.
Sheen is magnetic in the role of ‘The Teacher’ and the crucifixion scenes stand up to big budget re-enactments.
Peter Veugelaers writes poetry, stories, devotionals, and non-fiction, as well as reviews