Hans Kesting and Rob Icke reunite again for the thought-provoking if not quite sacrilegously outrageous Judas at Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
“I am here because I have lost faith. I’m here because I want to go home”
The Almeida’s loss has been Amsterdam’s gain. Now Ibsen Artist in Residence for Internationaal Theater Amsterdam, Robert Icke’s inimitable ways with a classic text has been flourishing in his new artistic home (his Oedipus was spectacular). And now he’s tackling one of the most classic texts of all – the Bible – in Judas.
Naturally he is doing it in his own way, pulling not only from the Gospels of Luke, John and Matthew but also from the non-canonical Gospel of Judas which has a somewhat different perspective. And thus Icke makes the case that Judas’ side of the story has yet to be truly heard and that the ‘true’ story comes from listening to them all.
The biggest upshot of this is that this Judas is definitively someone who only did what he was told to do, a man with an extensive tragic back-story and a deep sense of obedience that manifests in the ultimate sacrifice. Or at least that’s the story he tells himself and who is anyone to deny him that interpretation? Not least Jesus.
It’s a fascinating concept and powerfully acted through a vociferous performance from Hans Kesting which frequently scorches the stage. There’s such a physicality to his Judas, from anger to haunting sadness, and as he bounces off Jesse Mensah’s preternatural Jesus and Chris Nietvelt’s deeply empathetic Sarah, his wife, a tortured soul truly emerges.
Altogether though, Judas does feel a little more conventional. Hildegard Bechtler’s set design traps us in something of a timeless bunker and as familiar scenes from Sunday school play out, there’s not always the sense of radical innovation illuminating them. But if the bar that I’m judging Icke by is one set by his own work, it’s hardly the end of the world that it isn’t met every time. Kesting makes this worth it though.