Donegal Youth Musical Theatre (DYMT)’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar will without doubt be talked about for years to come.
In a brave, bold move, the creative team of Séimí Campbell, Herta Kelly, Sinead O’Donnell Carey, Michael Duffy and Amy Jordan took the well known Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera and effectively tore up the script and started again. In doing so, they created a show that was edgy, compelling and unforgettable.
Audiences had been told to expect a contemporary setting. On taking their seats in An Grianan Theatre they were greeted with a set that was itself an absolute showstopper. And there was no doubting the scene. This was the ruin of a war-torn, bombarded Syrian city, not being viewed on a TV screen from the comfort of home, but there in all its detail, with many signs that ordinary people were trying to live everyday lives there.
As the audience settled in and waited for the show to start, children on stage played hide and seek; a touchingly normal activity amidst a scene of such destruction.
This set the tone for what was to come – a stunning, powerful performance of the hope and courage ignited by the Saviour; the tormented spirit of Judas; the desperate love of Mary Magdalene; the fervour of the blood-thirsty mob; the terrible price of war; and the high personal cost to the hero, Jesus Christ.
There were some excellent individual performances from Cian Judd as Jesus Christ and Niamh Long as Mary Magdalene to name but a few. But one outstanding character depiction was that of Judas played by Anna Gallagher. Any doubts about the merit of a gender-blind cast were dispelled the moment Ms Gallagher began to sing. Raw, passionate and utterly captivating, she made the role her own and elevated it to a whole new level.
As the story closed, audiences were confronted with the cast taking to rafts, some with life jackets, some without; another scene so familiar that people are almost desensitised to it by now. But these refugees were different. We knew them all. They were the people we had been watching closely in an intimate theatre setting for the last few hours. And even before the stage lights dimmed and the little lights carried by the refugees went out one by one, we knew the tragic inevitability of their story.
It was a sombre but powerful ending that left everyone full of emotion and in no doubt that they had just witnessed something very special.
Director Séimí Campbell had a special word of thanks for all who were involved in the show.
He told Donegal Now: “We were so delighted with how the production went; with our incredible cast performing to five sold out audiences.
“We wanted to create a production that raised questions and awareness, and invited audiences to follow the traditional bible tale in a new contemporary setting. I am truly grateful to our amazing cast and creative team who invested so much into ‘our JCS story’ for three intensive weeks of rehearsals. Together, we created something that we can be very proud of.”
This production has sparked national and international attention with messages from Ben Fortser (West End and Australian Tour Jesus) amongst them.
Photos by Indigo Lighting
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