The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
April 5, 6, 7 & 8, 2000.
Son of Man
by Dennis Potter
Bob Ryder – Jesus
Adrian Kenward – Agitator
Alistair Reed – Centurion
David Goodger – Pilate
John Robinson – Commander
Joanna Hopper – Ruth
Dennis Evans – Caiaphas
John Garland – Peter
Simon Druce – Andrew
Peter Thompson – James
Kevin Isaac – John
Peter Milner – First Priest
Diane Robinson – Second Priest
Hazel Starns – Procla [Pilate’s wife]
Rols Ham-Riche – Judas
Jasper Astle – Money-Changer
Margaret Ockenden – Heckler & Onlooker
Michelle Wragg – Heckler & Onlooker
Stage Manager – David Comber
ASM – Jean Porter
Lighting – Mike Medway
Sound – Simon Snelling
Set Construction – David Comber
Set Construction – Dave Collis
Set Construction – Brian Box
Set Construction – Mike Davy
Set Construction – Marc Lewis
Set Painting – Frances Thorne
Set Painting – Sheila Neesham
Properties – Margaret Davy
Properties – Sue Whittaker
Costumes – Frances Moulton
Sound Recording – Greg Starns
Music – Katalin Szeless
Press & Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Press & Publicity – Frances Thorne
Press & Publicity – Rosemary Brown
Design & Graphics – Judith Berrill
Box Office – Margaret Murrell
Front of House Manager – Brian Moulton
Programme Note #1: Son of Man
A large part of the last 2000 years has been based on the life, death and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. At the start of another Millennium Son of Man looks at the man Jesus through the eyes of an original and successful playwright of the late 20th Century.
Dennis Potter has also been called controversial. In Son of Man he portrays a very Roman Jesus, with all His doubts and frailties as much, if not more than, His divinity. The title Son of Man [rather than Son of God] suggests this.
Son of Man is in no way sacrilegious, but there is no cut and dried certainty as to the divinity of Jesus. Like all god plays we are left to judge for ourselves. Son of Man was first presented on TV in 1969. The ending was ambiguous but the stage version ends on a triumphant note. It is a powerful and challenging piece of theatre, worthy of Wick.
DF wrote: “This play has been brought to the Barn stage through the effort and commitment of a great many people. I am indebted to them all – not only the large and enthusiastic cast, which includes several actors new to the Barn, but also the many other dedicated Wick members who have made this production possible. I hope that you will find Son of Man thought-provoking, as well as an absorbing piece of theatre.”
Publicity #1: Son of Man
Publication: Brighton and Hove Leader
Publication Data: January 14 2000 issue – page 17
MEMBERS of the Wick Theatre Company have set themselves the ambitious task of staging Dennis Potter’s Son of Man for their April production, first shown on BBC television in 1969.
The only trouble is, they need extras for the crowd scenes and to play high priests taking part in the drama, which examines the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
So, if you’ve ever toyed with the idea of getting involved with local theatre, but lacked the confidence, this could be a perfect opportunity to break yourself in gently.
Director Derek Fraser would welcome calls on 01273 776072 from anyone interested.
The production runs from April 5 to 8.
Publicity #2: Son of Man
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: March 30 2000, issue – page 12
Text Header: “Wick tackle Potter work”
GROUND-BREAKING, controversial, challenging – that’s the work of the award-winning Wick Theatre Company. And its first presentation of the new millennium, Dennis Potter’s powerful play Son of Man, is no exception.
This was first shown on television in 1969 as one of the BBC’s Plays for Today and examines the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The curtain rises at the end of His ordeal in the wilderness and falls at His crucifixion. Director Derek Fraser said, ‘In Son of Man, Dennis potter has given us a strong portrayal of Jesus, a man fulfilling His purpose whatever the cost. He shows us a very human side of Jesus, with all a man’s doubts and fears. ‘We share in His struggle to overcome these in order to accomplish His destiny.’
The strong cast of experienced actors includes Barn stars such as Bob Ryder, who brings considerable presence to the rôle of Jesus, David Goodger, who plays Pontius Pilate. Brighton actor Dennis Evans is Caiaphas. Other Barn regulars are Roland Ham-Riche playing Judas and John Garland as Peter.
Son of Man will be presented at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, from Wednesday until next Saturday [April 8] at 7.45pm. Tickets cost £4.50 and £5.50 from the box office 01273 597094. Wick staff are urging locals to come along to be stunned or stimulated – or even socked – by Derek Fraser’s innovative production.
‘Whatever your reaction, this will be a thought-provoking evening you won’t want to miss.’
Review #1: Son of Man
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: April 13 2000 issue – page 13
Reviewer: Stephen Critchett
Text Header: “Unmissable Wick Treat”
A string of fine individual performances courtesy of the award-winning Wick Theatre Company ensured Dennis Potter’s controversial play Son of Man lived up to its billing at Southwick’s Barn Theatre. “Whatever your reaction, this will be a though-provoking evening you won’t want to miss”, director Derek Fraser promised. This certainly proved to be the case, with Wick’s flawless production focusing convincingly on the humanity of Jesus and the many challenges, doubts and fears He faced.
Bob Ryder gave a superbly commanding and passionate performance in the role of Christ, illustrating the ongoing struggles He faced to win the hearts and minds of the people while challenging the military leaders and church. David Goodger gave a strong portrayal of tyrant Pontius Pilate while Brighton actor Dennis Evans [Caiaphas] displayed the unease within the established church of the time to a tee.
Potter wrote the play in 1968 while suffering a crippling illness and, in many ways, his remarks that it was born through the resulting ‘richer sense of religion’ rang true for all to see. Rols Ham-Riche skilfully provided onlookers with a glimpse into the turmoil Judas suffered while doting disciples Peter, Andrew, James and John were convincingly played by John Garland, Simon Druce, Peter Thompson and Kevin Isaac respectively.
Son of Man was indeed rendered unmissable, thanks to a host of solid performances from the supporting cast.
Review #2: Son of Man
Publication: Wick Newsletter
Publication Data: May 2000
Correspondent: Jan King
Saturday’s performance of Son of Man emphatically confronted me with why we go to see a piece of ‘serious’ theatre in the first place. I was forced to think, emotionally wracked, and experienced that extraordinary bond between players and audience when the proverbial pin is poised to drop and every mind in the place is palpably in sync. In a word, I was riveted.
Derek Fraser is to be congratulated on a tremendous achievement, and for the guts to tackle a piece which could have gone seriously pear-shaped. It’s wordy, with a difficult subject — Jesus — about whom everybody has an opinion; it could have been embarrassing, as well as dull and static. Instead, the audience were the recipients of a beautifully played and paced piece of theatre sustained by an electric energy that clearly demonstrated what the Wick are made of.
The problem of visual interest in a talky play was solved by the imaginative use of variegated blocks which, from where I was sitting, took me several minutes to realise made up a giant raked cross laid at an angle. It was a masterly piece of set design by Judith Berrill, and it gave the actors plenty of surfaces to crawl up, sprawl over, stand on, sit on and stride over, while forcing the audience to keep in mind where all this was ultimately leading. This was enhanced by a further piece of inspired simplicity in an up-stage and off-centre scrim, lit from behind in a variety of shades [and occasionally used as a protection screen], and by a life-sized hollow hanging figure in a crucified pose stage right, with all its inner workings cleverly suggestive of blood vessels and skeleton — a human being literally laid bare — the theme of the play. The music, by Katalin Szeless, economically used, added some lugubrious foreboding with its bass single notes and seemed just right, as well as appropriately ancient [at one point, however, I did strongly suspect the inventive use of an underground train!].
None of this would have helped if the acting had not been up to snuff. But clearly Derek Fraser knew that with such a cast pool he could afford to attempt this difficult play with the high odds that it would work. There was not a single weak performance and a wealth of strong ones, Adrian Kenward’s Agitator, whom I took to be John the Baptist, gave a forceful, high voltage performance, once more demonstrating his versatility. Pilate, the astute politician driven to distraction by his realisation that the Romans cannot fight anything as powerful as an idea, was played with sophistication but agitated ennui by an commanding David Goodger in an impeccable white jacket. I also particularly liked John Robinson’s military commander, a polished, beautifully honed performance that epitomised smug sense of Roman [read British] superiority. Dennis Evan’s Caiaphas was the soul of academic and perplexed high priesthood, distraught with responsibility and hidden hope. And Rols Ham-Riche’s Judas in his white suit, the priesthood’s willing pawn who has not remotely grasped the nature of Jesus, was the epitome of well-meaning complacency, all the more tragic in his unawareness of what he was about to set in train.
The presence of Ruth, the humble but proud Jewish slave, added a disturbing touch of sadism to Pilate’s fears of Jesus when he beat her in the massage scene, and was played by Joanne Hopper with stoical dignity. Procla, Pilate’s wife, was a different role for Hazel Starns, who succeeded in creating a character and in looking delectable at the same time in her green gown. Her presence came as a visual shock in an almost entirely male cast. John Garland’s practical, truculent and occasional gormless Peter, and Simon Druce’s more credulous, biddable and occasionally gormless Andrew made a delicious foil for the scene where Jesus begins His ministry with the fishermen; yet not once did they fall into caricature. James, played by Peter Thompson, was a study in exasperation and final horrified understanding of Jesus’ anguish. John, played by Kevin Isaac, the first and second priests, played by Peter Milner and Diane Robinson, Alistair Reed’s soldiery centurion, and Jasper Astle’s money-changer all brought a professional single-minded concentration to their rôles.
But the play, however excellent the leading and smaller rôles, must stand or fall on the strength of one central performance — the title rôle. Without it, nothing else will be credible either. Bob Ryder’s many-faceted talent has never shone more brightly than in this most difficult of rôles. Of course, it is an actor’s dream. In Bob’s case, it was a dream well lived. His performance was a masterly blend of subtlety, passion and exquisitely focused control. Was Jesus nuts or was He divine? The play doesn’t answer that question for one theatrically powerful reason: — Jesus doesn’t know either. From that premise comes a Jesus who alternates between conviction and the agonised streams of consciousness of a man already on the cross of doubt. Bob Ryder’s Jesus laid bare the sheer anguished horror of supreme responsibility, the torment of being utterly human — and therefore limited, driven to the edge of madness by self doubt. He caught the engaging simplicity of Jesus’ background as a working man [the light Northern accent was just right for such a parochial backwater as Galilee]; he caught the bewilderment, humour, warmth, rage, terror, power, of a man trapped with a sense of destiny He is not sure is His. In His “Love you enemies” speech — if speech is the right word, since it is anything but speech-like — He took the working man’s common sense to an extreme of logic against human folly, catching the fervour of a man who ignited the imagination of thousands. The words are the author’s. But the accolade for communication are the actor’s.
The one [small] fly in the ointment [well, I have to find something wrong with it!], was the oft repeated appearance of the poor props lady, whose profile moving across the rose lighted scrim symbolised ..? a props lady removing an altar candle. For me, it did disrupt the otherwise seamless atmosphere. This clever clogs would like to suggest that perhaps it could have been removed by exiting actors, although I am sure various possibilities were discussed; and the set in darkness looked lethal. I kept expecting to hear actors hurtling into the void. Carrying a large candlestick as well suggests the sort of injuries inflicted in the Spanish Inquisition!
The play is a modern medieval mystery play, with Potter clearly connecting the carpenter, the wood-bearing tree, and the cross. Jesus walks out of the pages of the New Testament to confront us in disturbingly relevant, contemporary terms. He is even in modern dress. We can hardly fail to grasp the point. Jesus’ search, on a smaller scale, is also everyone’s search for identity in a world where we do not seem to fit or cannot be sure our lives mean anything at all.
This was a Wick landmark production. It will stay in my mind a long time. What a shame it could not have been put on in Easter week! Congratulations to all involved. And thank you. It was a very special evening!
Comment #1: Son of Man
Publication: Letter from Hurstpierpoint Players
Author: Nina Vickers [Secretary] and Bob Burrows [Chairman] Comment
“We thoroughly enjoyed the production as a whole. The set was stark which struck home the point of the injustices of the time very effectively. The very powerful and moving performance of Bob Ryder certainly provoked a great deal of thought which, after all, was the object of the play.
We congratulate the very strong squad, each actor played his/her part with skill and enthusiasm.
The Barn Theatre, for the first time visitors such as ourselves, is a remarkable place and it was a pleasure to savour the atmosphere. However, it was shame to see so few people in the audience.
Please pass our congratulations to the cast.”
Comment #2: Son of Man
Publication: Wick Newsletter
Publication Data: May 2000
Heading: “On Being a Crowd in Son of Man”
I have always taken crowds for granted, but when you think of Julius Caesar or An Enemy of the People you realise the Crowd is important. So I was pleased to be a Crowd in Son of Man.
When I am a Crowd, who am I? A batty old crone, an agitator with attitude or … does it matter? No! I have learned from being a Crowd in Son of Man that you contribute a hubbub when needed and remember your line at the right time. It is fun. My fellow Crowd are nice people and we have earnest debated about the nature of the hubbub. It is not easy being a Crowd, but we like it.”