I mentioned yesterday morning that this is a good weekend to be pondering the gospel; last night Jane and I visited Magdalen Road Church in East Oxford for The Mark Drama, which is definitely my highlight so far of this Easter season.
I had only heard about it in the morning from a friend on Facebook but, with the magic words “free” and “local”, I figured it was worth a punt. When we got down to the church, there was no stage but just a square of red carpet surrounded by circles of chairs. I had taken the warning about limited seating seriously so we we among the first in and snagged seats right on the front row, so close to the action that our feet were on the carpet.
A team of actors drawn from the church re-enacted the whole of Mark’s gospel for us over the course of 90 minutes. Would I go so far as to say they brought it to life? Even from the written page this short book (which could probably be read through in less than an hour) has plenty of life but the troupe did accomplish exposing the audience to the whole meal rather than the crumbs that are normally served up in public (and most private devotions) and with remarkable facility. The prompter was sitting behind us but only had to gently intrude two or three times; the performance didn’t have all the stage craft of a professional production but had its share of clever direction.
It was certainly good enough that the limited use of props (a chair, for one scene towards the end), multiple parts played by all the actors except the one shouldering the role of Jesus, and regular clothes rather than any attempt at costume were lost in the drama of the story. The only problem with this production was that I attended the opening night and the end of the run is this evening. I’m helping with the music at our evening service and also wouldn’t want to take a seat from someone who hasn’t seen it but follow the link at the start of this post for more details if you are anywhere near Oxford this evening; whether you know the story well or just want to get some context on what the whole Easter deal is about, this simple but beautiful piece of amateur (for love) theatre is highly recommended.