The Gospel According to Oxyrhincus
A narrow catwalk between two flanks of spectators: "Maran Ata! The Lord is coming! A child is born in Bethlehem. He will destroy Jerusalem. Kyrie Eleison. He has not come to bring peace".
The characters who speak and act before us on the narrow walkway which divides the spectators in two, live in an unspecified time and place, perhaps in the distant past, perhaps in the future. They use a language we cannot understand (Yiddish, Ancient Greek, Coptic). But there is a moment when the words reach us clearly, in our own language. An impressive turbaned figure of uncertain sex, looks us earnestly in the eyes and reads us the beginning of this exotic yet familiar Gospel: "In the beginning was the Idea. And the Idea was with God. And the Idea was God. God is a devourer of men; that is why man is sacrificed to Him".
In the end, all the Messiahs appear in a tableau, blood dripping from their mouths. All faith is transformed into ferocity, all thirst for the future becomes domination. Even the Jewish taylor's final dance - whose steps correspond to as many names for God - is executed amongst weapons and bones scattered about a battlefield. This pious man continues to pray and weep while he awaits the Messiah, not satisfied that he has already seen so many other cruel Messiahs in action. He is the most sincere, the most moving, the most honest character in the performance. His heart is brimming over with hope, but his head does not understand and his eyes do not want to see. Does his stubborn faith suggest, perhaps, that there is no end to the victories of fanaticism and that history teaches us nothing? Does he represent the innocent earth into which idolatry and violence can push their robust roots? Is he the incarnation of the saying according to which only good faith is worse than bad faith?
Created in Holstebro, first in the "white room" and later in the "red room".
Actors: Roberta Carreri, Else Marie Laukvik, Tage Larsen, Francis Pardeilhan, Julia Varley, Torgeir Wethal
Scenic space: Luca Ruzza / Odin Teatret
Costumes: Lena Bjerregaard / Odin Teatret
Text and directing: Eugenio Barba
Assistant director: Christoph Falke
Language: The actors speak a reinvented Coptic, Koine Greek and Yiddish
Number of spectators per performance: 190
214 performances from March 1985 to June 1987 (Argentina, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Uruguay, Yugoslavia)