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Review of The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

From all the many highlights I had during my R&D 2014, the University of Northampton's Animal Farm and Love & Information were well up there. The main showcase for all the third year students to strut their considerable skills upon the Royal stage before those Flash Festival dissertations. This year two shows had become three, with my first The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot.

As has been common in my crash course theatre year, I knew absolutely nothing of Judas and not being a religious person, I was also wary of whether it would be for me. That was my unknowing form thinking this was all going to be serious. However written by Stephen Adly Guirgis this was not serious business most of the time, in fact it was actually incredibly funny stuff. Occasionally deliberately offensive (especially in the language department), it tells the story of an imagined court case of Judas Iscariot and the calling of a rather interesting collection of witnesses to the stand.

As of The Odyssey, the opening monologue is presented to us by Lydia Rose Blagg as Judas' mother Henrietta. It is a serious opening belying much of the comedy to come, and is presented with high emotion. Although Blagg is first to speak, she is not first on stage. Michael Whelbourne as Judas is on stage when the auditorium doors are opened and keeps fixed in many poses throughout the play. He is impressive throughout acting as child, drunken loser and totally ferocious in his scenes towards the end.

The play is heavy on overplayed characters allowing the students full steam ahead on their performances. Absolutely no more so than Ashlee Sopher as prosecutor (thankfully for short) El-Fayoumy. He is without doubt the star of the show in his showy, womanising (all over the defense as well as an 87 year old!) and just simply over the top performance. He provides much of the humour from the show and played to perfection.

Also superb is Zoe Davey as defendant Fabiana Aziza Cunningham. The more matter of fact approach to a court case over Sopher's character. She is prim, proper and in the second half superb under the gross onslaught of Satan. Playing Satan is Steve Banks and is very much a character of two acts. The unexpected, almost friendly version in the first and the very much as expected in the second act. The shear wickedness of Banks' performance is wonderful and often excruciating. Nothing more than you would expect from the devil.

The rest of the cast is excellent throughout, many playing multiple roles. Poor old Catherine Garlick is once again saddled with playing one of the male parts after her Malcolm last year. This time briefly as Saint Peter, but mostly on stage as the "have a lollipop" bailiff. Although she has limited lines, she is captivating to watch in the background scenes as she is always in character. I am truly looking forward to her one-woman show at Flash.

Antonia Underwood as Mother Teresa is a lovely comic performance and with that absolute classic opening scene, one of the best moments of the play. Although we of course must not mock the elderly. Well maybe this once. Matt Hirst is also excellent throughout as Judge Littlefield, the Judge who doesn't really want to be there most of the time. In fact all of them are excellent, as are the accents. I have heard a few iffy accents this year, particularly American ones. Some overdone for the stage and difficult to understand. None however during Judas, all are consistent and clear without being too much. Very impressive.

Well the whole thing was very impressive. I will be totally honest and say that Judas was the least interesting to me of the three plays the University were doing, probably through mostly my lack of knowledge of it. However now having seen it, the other two truly have a lot to live up to. A wonderfully funny and dark play, but maybe not one to take your granny.


Performance reviewed: Friday 13th March, 2015 (morning) at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot is one of three show being performed at the Royal by the University Of Northampton BA (Hons) Actors. Details of each are below.
The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2015-2016/Royal/LastDaysOfJudas/?view=Standard

A Clockwork Orange: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2015-2016/Royal/AClockworkOrange/?view=Standard
Dying For It: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2015-2016/Royal/DyingForIt/?view=StandardDetails of Royal & Derngate can be found by visiting their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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