There’s some inevitable dark humour in I’m Not Jesus Christ, which could have been sub-headed I’m A Very Naughty Boy but for it being apparently based on a true story, presumably one in which someone asserted they were not Jesus Christ, which seems perfectly plausible. What’s incredibly remarkable here, though, is that Mihai (Andrei Costin) doesn’t possess any unusual traits or extraordinary abilities (or, as per the aforementioned Monty Python’s Life of Brian, long hair and a beard). It is simply that Maria (Izabella Urbanowicz) insists that her son Mihai is ‘Jesus Christ’. That is the term used, never ‘Son of God’ or ‘Messiah’ or ‘King of the Jews’. The root causes for this delusional viewpoint are made clear in the course of the narrative: it will suffice, without wanting to give too much away, to say that her life has not been easy. Or so we are led to believe.
Some of the far-out eccentricities are not, ultimately, that far removed from the oddities that exist within organised Western Christian religion. None of them really shocked me: what was more provocative were repeated references to Michael Schumacher. Mihai at one point declares that, having yet again affirmed his lack of divinity, that he would like to become Schumacher. Fair enough, the play was written in 2007, but given Schumacher’s current state, I still thought it was bad taste to leave the line completely unmodified.
There’s a very strong ‘all men are useless’ feminist agenda pushed by Ileana (Maria Alexe), who becomes even more deluded than Maria, and for all the talk of Heaven, Hell and the angels, there are some telling insights into how people can be so easily misled. What is referred to as “the television” – Ileana and her cameraman (one of several roles played by Sharon Duffy) – attempt to direct events, even choreograph them. What is seen on television is seldom all that it seems, and Maria the manipulator is now herself manipulated.
As Mihai can barely get a word in edgeways with his mother, who has the sort of tunnel vision Margaret Thatcher had at the height of her powers, he addresses the audience instead in a series of soliloquies, often plausibly detailing the thought patterns and opinions of someone still so very young. The storyline, not entirely in chronological order, becomes zanier as it progresses – and thus the show itself begins to feel puerile. It adds an extra layer, I suppose, to what would otherwise a sad story and little else, but the incredulity of it all got on my nerves somewhat. Perhaps it was meant to.
I’m Not Jesus Christ could be about quite a few things – psychological and emotional manipulation and exploitation, mental health issues, the role of the media in society today, even the impact of positive thinking. This production doesn’t emphasise anything in particular as the overarching theme to take away, and therefore feels unsure of itself – in a word, disorganised. A passionate cast works hard with what they’re given, however, and I admit with some pleasure that the company did hold my attention throughout. A good effort, it does at least successfully demonstrate the dangers of irrationally jumping to conclusions and seeing everything in terms of absolute good and absolute evil.
Review by Chris Omaweng
11 year old Mihai has been raised by his mother to believe he is the second coming of Jesus Christ. He’d prefer to be more than to be like his hero Michael Schumacher. But as his birthday approaches, his mother has other ideas.
The English language theatre debut of one of Romania’s most exciting writers, Maria Manolescu’s play is produced by acclaimed new writing company Papercut Theatre.
Cast: Izabella Urbanowicz, Andrei Costin, Sharon Duffy and Maria Alexe
Director: Melissa Dunne
Producer: Cristina Catalina
Designer: Liz Marsden
Sound Designer: Jon McLeod
Stage Manager: Remi Bruno Smith
Marketing Assistant: Jana Hlavova
MONDAY 10th May-Thursday 26th May 7:15pm