PLAYING the lead role on stage can be a daunting task, but to portray 12 characters in a one-man-show about the son of God is quite another matter. But that is the challenge before Simon Callow who spoke to the Observer ahead of The Man Jesus coming to Malvern Theatres.
Simon Callow is no stranger to being the only person on stage having starred in solo shows such as The Importance of Being Oscar and The Mystery of Charles Dickens. But his latest play is possibly the 65-year-old’s most ambitious to date.
“The idea is that I play ten or so characters who knew Jesus, so I play his mother and Pontias Pilate for instance, to bring this overall picture of Jesus’ life,” said Simon.
“Each character is fairly original and a terrific challenge. I don’t wear any make-up or any costumes, and I have to make you believe I am the pregnant 16-year-old Mary in the beginning, then make you believe I am the all powerful King of Galilee.
“I think this is quite an exciting way to tell the story. I am very interested in the fact you can convince people you are a person who bares no resemblance to you whatsoever, all by the power of imagination.”
Having got his first job in theatre, albeit the box office, at the invitation of Laurence Olivier, Callow has embarked on career punctuated by a fascination with historical figures.
His passion for music has seen him play the likes of Mozart and Wagner, and the acclaimed author has also penned biographies about Charles Dickens and Orson Welles.
Simon said it was his idea to do a play on Jesus Christ which led to the creation of Matthew Hurt’s script for The Man Jesus.
“I am very keen on story telling and very excited by exploring these people, what they were like as children and what they made of their lives,” said Simon. “This is a just continuation of that. Whether you are religious or not you have to acknowledge that Jesus dominated 2,000 years of history.”
The Man Jesus includes numerous biblical stories including the raising of Lazarus and journey to Jerusalem, but it is as much an exploration into the beliefs and teachings of the Messiah and Christianity.
Simon added: “I think we are probably coming to the end of a Christianity dominated culture. There are a lot of people who know nothing about Jesus, but also church-going Christians who haven’t the remote idea what it is all about either.
“It is much, much more radical than people realise and they will be surprised by what Jesus had to say.”
The Man Jesus comes to Malvern Theatres on Saturday, October 25.
Tickets cost from £24.08 and are available by visiting www.malvern-theatres.co.uk or by calling the box office on 01684 892277.