Written and Created by BeeJay Aubertin-Clinton
He’s just hit the subscriber count of his dreams, and like all YouTubers, any milestone comes with temptation and reward for viewers; the greatest story ever told from the other side of the table as Juda Iscariot, the ultimate betrayer spills the tea on their version of events in the last days of Christ’s life. JUDAS takes a fresh look at the secrets, the love, and the promises the pair shared and how centuries of re-invention and survival have taken their toll on the immortal being.
Undertaking the sacrilegious avenue of suggesting the Messiah may not have been the heralded saviour as so many saw, but as a mortal figure of morality slapped with the pomp and prestige of centuries worth of legends and false promise. Starring and written by Beejay Aubertin-Clinton, JUDAS seemingly takes the more cabaret approach of humour, jabs with lurid colours as Aubertin-Clinton infuses a vlogging style of narrative with biblical references, juxtaposition, and dramatic ironies. But oh, oh, how wrong appearances can seem.
The story of JUDAS is less a tell-all-tale of either apostle or messiah but an exploration of love in its purest form – devoid of gender, beliefs, and boundaries: more though, the stigmas and persistent alterations of narratives to fit certain doctrines for further gains. The connection between Christ and his closest apostle, JUDAS pushes the relationship between them from the platonic, to the romantic, to the sexual and transcends a labelled variant.
A brave turn, particularly given the ease in which we find tremendous systemic issues of abuse within the church (particularly those against gay relationships). And yet, Aubertin-Clinton undergoes a rather miraculous sense of respect and understanding of what is, love it or loathe it, a fundamental religious doctrine. Written with a deft hand of abject comedy and a lacerating but clear satire, JUDAS doesn’t seek to offend but instead reflect on the shortcomings and desperations we seek yet would besmirch. The concept of Christ’s second coming as a saviour, when so many revolutionaries and world-changers have ended up following a similar, shorter, path is just one of the many questions and ironies Aubertin-Clinton draws on to challenge the pious.
To capture love in a raw form is the highest accolade a performer can achieve, and the ability to conjure such diverse and intense emotions in a one-person show is quite frankly remarkable. In places, JUDAS certainly dips in the comedic sense, taking a cheap or obvious shot. At under an hour, JUDAS has drawbacks in the weight of emotion having to sit side-by-side with the comedy, rushing elements where a small amount of pausing or dwelling a moment longer for Aubertin-Clinton’s touching expression and genuine sincerity would benefit the production.
And as dramatic as the solo performance becomes, there is room for the comedy to push even harder against the drama, rather than attempting to play second fiddle. Comedically, there is a stem drawn on, deliciously camp, yet strikingly intelligent for any scholars of the testament – witty, JUDAS has few concerns in donning a few more grimy and ugly jokes, both to draw commentary but also roll a few eyes.
Belting out the gospel truth, JUDAS shines a light into the dark depths of the Bible’s most treacherous creature. Auberton-Clinton not only takes their thirty pieces of silver, but they then exchange them for a satchel of golden moments and a diamond of an eye-opening original concept that turns the greatest story ever told into the greatest scandal – one of adoration, sacrifice and rapport.
The Living Record @ Brighton Fringe runs here from 28 May until 27 June 2021
Review by Mhairi Sime