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Judas Iscariot review by Shelley Blake

Review from Arts Hub, written by Shelley Blake:

One of history’s most famous apparent betrayals has been brought to the Melbourne stage in Stephen Adly Guirgis’s 1995 production The last days of Judas Iscariot – and it seems quite fitting that a company called Human Sacrifice Theatre would be the ones to bring it home. After all it is a tale about sacrifice and redemption, isn’t it?

The production, now playing at Fortyfive downstairs, is cleverly crafted and set in the court room of “down town” purgatory. The case, God and the kingdom of heaven and earth vs Judas Iscariot, opens with a grasping monologue from Judas’s mother, Henrietta Iscariot (Gail Beker) and as the audience seems settled in their juror’s chairs, the drama begins.

A dialogue driven performance allows the cast to jump back and forth between stories, anecdotes and tales of their time and relationship with the one and only Judas Iscariot. At times, the character’s lack deliverance in their monologues and the persecution sits a little too softly on the surface.

The defense attorney, the sexy Fabiana Aziza Cunningham (Holly Shanahan) is a convincing depiction of a woman in power who knows what she wants, what she’s arguing and how to get it. Battling it out, via comedic legal jargon, with lawyer Yusef El-Fayoumy (Adam Mattaliano) these two central characters seem to hold together this word-heavy narrative.

Contrasting tales and memories of Judas are told by the many characters throughout this two-hour production. Sigmund Freud and Mother Theresa, each with their own spin on the happenings of those 30 pieces of silver and ideas of betrayal and damnation – add a humorous twist to the historical side of the piece. A definite standout to the show is Saint Monica (Chantelle Jamieson) – casting her hip-hopesque memories of the overwhelming guilt felt the bible’s most talked about sinner.

A live sound track accompanies the cast and invites a welcomed and deeper connection to the text. The subtle supportive sounds from the men in the corner (Siesmo and Richard Brownlee), create a warmth that is seemingly lacking in other areas of the performance.

However, this cleverly written piece of theatre is deviously convicted and is quite the blessing on this Friday night in Melbourne’s CBD. The hellish suits and heals walking briskly above ‘purgatory,’ make the courtroom of Fortyfive downstairs feel like a safe haven between heaven and hell.

And the verdict? It’s quite worth you heading on down to purgatory to see for yourself. The last days of Judas Iscariot plays at Fortyfive downstairs until May 30.

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