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The Last Days of Judas Iscariot


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 Photo: Marc Brenner

Interview with 'The Last Days of Judas Iscariot' director Ishwar Maharaj

Can you tell me a bit about the play?
The play revisits the biblical character of Judas Iscariot, the infamous disciple who betrays Jesus, and basically asks us to consider who he was, his state of mind and his reasons. It also asks us about spirituality. Is there reason for spirituality in the 21st century? What is forgiveness? Is it important? And what is unconditional love? Is this an idea, a concept that is only achievable in a Utopia?

It is comic and irreverent and hugely absurd, while asking deep philosophical questions. And some of the characters speak like they are from "the streets" giving the play an immediacy, making the ideas and questions relatable rather than lofty.

It brings in characters like Mother Teresa and Sigmund Freud.

The defence examines the state of mind of Judas Iscariot when he committed the infamous act of betrayal. It is really interesting to have a psychoanalyst come in and give his perspective on what he thinks might have been going on in Judas Iscariot’s mind. Without giving anything away, any spoilers, he presents a very persuasive argument. It’s a very clever way of knitting together contemporary and biblical characters. It is also trying to say that the questions that we have been grappling with as human beings are not new. They have affected humankind from the beginning.

Where are you planning to set the play in of terms of the time, era?
I’m going to set it today. It's going to be very modern. The essential courtroom drama is happening here and now.

How do you think the actors are going to interact with the play?
I think they'll be excited by it. I'm super excited about the play and all these philosophical ideas very much interest me. The graduating student actors are really intelligent. I have worked with some of them before and I've seen others work over the last three years, so I know them, and I know what they're capable of. They will really enjoy this play because it has such a rich, complex array of characters and I think they will really like the idea of getting their teeth into something so deep. There's so much historical context for them to research and I know that they will love pulling things apart and exploring the rich and diverse characters and deep philosophical questions.

What are some of the challenges presented by the play?
Forgiveness is a very challenging subject. One of the characters on the defence, Cunningham, says ‘the only person who needs forgiveness is the one who doesn't deserve it’, and I think that is such an interesting concept and challenges you to get out of your comfort zone.

Lastly, can you describe the play in three words?
Funny, entertaining, intelligent.