Thursday, March 21, 2013

Testimony of a grumpy angel

“You looked so miserable in rehearsal”, I was told yesterday. “They were taking photos to put up on Facebook. They didn’t want to use yours. You looked like you were in hell or something.”

When I was a boy people told me things like that all the time. “Cheer up”, they would tell me. Perfect strangers. “It can’t be that bad”.
It usually was, as it happened. And often a great deal worse.

But not last Sunday. I’d enjoyed rehearsals on Sunday.

They’re for a Passion Play that’s happening on Easter Sunday in various sites in and around Duddingston Village, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. (

It’s a stunningly beautiful setting and we were working outdoors. Charles Nowolskielski, the writer/director, has had the idea that my character, The Angel, should be present in most of the scenes.

So I spent the afternoon making sure I knew where best to put myself. And then imagining how to it felt: to be an Angel watching the trial and sufferings of Jesus.

Bloody awful, obviously. As far as I could tell.

There’s the best human being, probably, that the world has ever produced: gentle, loving, fierce and wise.

And what do human beings do to him?

Condemn him in a show trial and torture him to death.

His followers all desert him; the only one that comes out of it at all well in this version is Judas. And he’s supposed to be to be the villain.

It’s true the women come across quite well but they’re just condemned to stay helpless at the edge of things, grieving.

It’s a wretched sad story and on the whole humans come out very badly in it. 

Speaking angelically, I’m tempted to call down fire and brimstone to put an end to the lot of them. See if we can’t start the whole thing all over again. And do a wee bit better next time.

So as for me, Jo, no wonder I was looking miserable.

But I was also so taken up with it all, and the pleasure of inventing, I never even noticed anyone going round taking photographs. 

It’s fascinating: I’ve known theoretically for many years that drama in Europe had its roots in passion plays. But never experienced the power of it.

And I know it’s true that we humans are so flawed. And even when we love each other can cause ourselves the most intense suffering: without in the least way wishing it.

But is it right to keep rubbing our noses in it? Does it get us any further?

Better not to think about it. Better just to keep focussing on knowing my lines.

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