I’ve just been to see a wonderful one-man dramatisation of Matthew’s Gospel. It was especially good for me to see this performance today – firstly because it’s Lent and a good time to read through or hear the whole gospel accounts and secondly, of course, because I’m reading Matthew’s gospel this Lent as part of the Big Read 2011.
This was a superb show. Images and lighting were used in a really powerful way and there was different music or background noise to suit different sections. For example, the sermon on the mount was told to the sound of a field with bird song, rendering the ‘consider the birds of the air’ comment very beautifully. George Dillon’s delivery was superb – swapping characters effortlessly with the use of different voices and stances. It was an incredible feat of endurance on Dillon’s part, his delivery was swift but his diction always crystal clear. Many of the characters were caricatures: the disciples are portrayed as a little slow, almost gorilla-like, the pharisees and teachers of the law as snidy, wheedling and like Uriah Heep. This actually served to both make it clear who was speaking but also to set out Jesus as totally different from everyone.
Incredibly, the whole show was devised by George Dillon and the version of Matthew’s gospel he reads is his own translation. Powerful verses from the Old Testament appear on the screen behind him in Hebrew, Greek and then English throughout the performance – reminding us of Matthew’s use of Old Testament scripture to show its fulfilment in Jesus and also that the gospel wasn’t written in English!
It struck me what an incredible story teller Jesus was – and also Matthew in his writing down of the gospel. To hear it all in one sitting (except an ice cream in the interval of course!) was a great thing and reminded me that this is how the teachings of Jesus started out: groups of believers telling one another what Jesus taught, the parables, the stories, the pictures they could remember. I think I might try and listen to the gospel more. I think in our modern times (and by that I mean since the Reformation really) we often focus a lot as Christians on reading our Bibles. Listening to someone read, however, is different. Jesus said often:
There is something to be said for really hearing God’s word.
If you’re interested in George Dillon’s play, you can find out tour dates here. I found out that he is playing the Greenbelt festival this year – doing Matthew’s gospel by candlelight – I think I might go back for more! It was a wonderful way to encounter Jesus and hear the gospel.