Presented by Joanne Hartstone and Passion Pit Theatre UK
Reviewed 7 March 2017
The story of Jesus Christ and his final days is well-worn with countless adaptations and representations over thousands of years. New ways of looking at the text are rare but in The Devil’s Passion, writer and performer Justin Butcher breathes harrowing life into this age-old tale. Delivering a virtuosic performance that engrosses from the very beginning, this is a powerful play that fans of good theatre should see.
Butcher frames the story from the viewpoint of Satan as he attempts to bring down the radical terrorist Y’shua Bar-Yessuf, the man known as “Jesus”. Looking through this new lens Butcher identifies Jesus’ triumphs and failures and the complexities of his multiple miracles. Characters that have long been stereotyped are given new life and each leper and prostitute is portrayed to perfection. Butcher manipulates his face, body and voice as he flawlessly flows between each character as tales of terror and temptation slowly unfold.
Guy Masterson’s direction is stark and focussed bringing all of the focus onto Butcher by removing extraneous costumes and props. This show is hard and long but Masterson and Butcher do their best to keep it moving. The change of length from 90 to 115 minutes added the bonus of an interval but unnecessarily extended pacing of the show. Luckily, Butcher’s incredible performance is so engaging that this almost fades into the background.
The lighting by Andrew Shewan is simple but incredibly effective utilising coloured washes to display mood. This again enhanced Butcher’s performance and ensured the show was slick and highly effective. Music and sound design by Jack C Arnold was of a similar high quality but the echo effect in the first few scenes made the majority of the dialogue nearly unintelligible. This was particularly concerning as those scenes focussed on the complex Temptation.
The Devil’s Passion is an experience of theatre that, although long, presents a deep and powerful look at a weathered story. Butcher’s performance throughout is powerful and his depth of character is outstanding. Definitely one of the most professional shows in the Fringe.
Reviewed by Nathan Quadrio
Rating out of 5: 5
Venue: St Peters Cathedral
Season: March 7th – March 11th
Duration: 115 mintues
Tickets: $15 – $30