Hands-On Messiah

Hands-on Messiah, written and performed by F. Mary Callan, is a one-person adaptation of the Gospel of John told from the perspective of characters, great or small, who met and interacted with Jesus. We never actually see the titular Messiah himself onstage. An interesting enough concept, but one that very much struggles to get off the ground in this production. 

The show falls short of the potential its own concept provides

Central to this is the performance itself, one-person shows are incredibly difficult to do, requiring a herculean level of energy, stamina and sheer versatility to hold an audience single-handedly for even an hour, and despite all her clear enthusiasm and charm, Callan was unable to achieve this. The energy frequently dropped in key scenes, compounded by certain wooden, or at least very stiff, line reads that sucked the life out of some sections and made others slightly hysterical. The exclamation of "Oh Shucks" by a Roman legionnaire during the crucifixion, in particular, still stays with me. 

The script, in contrast, is a bit more solid, providing a relatively stable narrative for events, but on closer inspection it too falls flat. It moves at an incredibly quick pace and relies very heavily on the audience knowing a lot about the Bible and the Gospel of John to begin with. Had I not been familiar with this gospel already through my school days I would have been lost entirely.

More damningly, the show falls short of the potential its own concept provides. Rather than interrogating the idea of Jesus from a variety of different conflicting perspectives the script stays true to it's source materials, showing him as the completely all loving saviour with few exceptions. It clear this show is intended for believers and will do little for those seeking to challenge the well-worn messiah narrative. Yet for believers looking for an entertaining performance of the myth of Christ they will find a half baked show filled with issues and one that I cannot in good conscious recommend.

This show certainly could be a nice enough Sunday school performance piece, but it needs a lot of work and tweaking before it can even reach that.

Reviews by Joseph McAulay

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Blazing Grannies return with a new version of their original show Hands-On Messiah. From the Wedding Feast at Cana to the farewell barbecue on the beach, F Mary Callan’s one-woman show leads us through the events of St John’s Gospel, meeting characters as baffled as we are by close encounters with Jesus of Nazareth. Mary and Martha, Judas and Lazarus, priests, soldiers and fishermen, Greeks and doubting Thomas tell their stories. 'With each flick of a shawl, Mary becomes a new person.' (Devi Dee, York 2017).

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