George Dillon’s touring show portrays Jesus as a fighter for God

George Dillon
George Dillon

Award-winning actor George Dillon is promising an unforgettable vision of Jesus in churches across Sussex during Lent as he performs a highly-intense, very human and occasionally humorous solo staging of his own translation of the first Gospel.

Performances will include Brighton, Worthing, Henfield and Horsham and will be by candlelight, with 25 per cent of ticket sales going to support Sussex homeless charities.

Inspired by an encounter with Bob Geldof at Euston Station, created in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and short-listed for The Stage’s Best Actor Award in Edinburgh, George will be offering an epic, impassioned performance portraying Jesus not as a meek and mild lamb to the slaughter but as a contemporary raging fighter for God.

Since the premiere at the Brighton Festival in 2002, Dillon has performed The Gospel of Matthew nearly 150 times in the UK, including three runs in Edinburgh and appearances at the Greenbelt, Soul in the City and Pentecost festivals, as well as in Canada, Poland and Bermuda.

“My relationship to it has grown over those 15 years. I have grown with it, and my thinking about it has grown and changed, but the original impulse was right back in my student days when I became interested in what Peter Brook calls ‘holy theatre’, not necessarily religious theatre, but theatre that addresses the human spirit. Because I was interested in ‘holy theatre’, I was looking for material that would serve, and I read various books of the Bible thinking ‘would they make good drama?’ But I tended to ask myself the question ‘why don’t I go for the big one? Do a Gospel?’ And then I had to choose which one. For a number of reasons, Matthew became the obvious choice, firstly because it has got more of Jesus speaking than any of the other Gospels. There are also fascinating contradictions, which can be traced back to its history and why it was written.”

The result, George says, is “epic, story-telling theatre”.

As for Jesus: “One of the ideas that inspired me was Bob Geldof at the Live Aid broadcast shouting ‘Give us your money!’ His righteous anger is very much a key aspect of the character. He is angry at humanity but he is also very human in his anger, and that’s one of the key things about the performance. People come to it and they are very aware of this paradoxical person of Jesus who is quite an angry, strident character. He is not gentle Jesus, meek and mild. There is a lot of fire and brimstone. He is angry at man’s inhumanity. He is angry at man’s stupidity. He is angry at man’s hypocrisy.”

During Lent (March 1-April 14) George will be giving 20 performances in churches in Brighton, London and the south-east.

Performances include: Saturday, March 4, 7.30pm, St Luke’s, 64 Old Shoreham Road, Brighton; Wednesday, March 8, 7.30pm, St Mary the Virgin, The Causeway, Horsham; Friday, March 10, 7.30pm, St Nicholas of Myra, Church Street, Brighton; Friday, March 17, 7.30pm, St Martin’s, Lewes Rd, Brighton; Monday, March 20, 7.30pm, St John the Divine, Worthing; Saturday, April 8, 7.30pm, All Saints, The Drive, Hove; Monday, April 10, 7.30pm St George’s, St George’s Road, Brighton; Tuesday, April 11, 7.30pm, St Luke’s, Queen’s Park Road, Brighton; Wednesday, April 12, 7pm, St Peter’s, Henfield, Church Lane, Henfield; Good Friday April 14, 7.30pm, All Saints, Hove, The Drive, Hove.

Tickets are £10 (£5 concs) and will be available on the door or in advance from the church office (most churches) or from (0333 666 3366).

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