Judas was a Ginger

Ryan Cerenko
Basilisk Theatre
Studio Salford
to

Judas Was A Ginger is a fine, dark, one-act comedy drama set in a travel agent's where two former work colleagues decide to commit suicide, the only problem being they have chosen the same moment and same place to end it all.

The piece develops into increasing farce in which in the midst of the chaos they reveal their inner thoughts and explore the reasons why they appear to want to end their lives. It began life as a rehearsed reading at the 24:7 Theatre Festival last year but has now been appropriately rewarded with its own production.

The play explores the problems the two men face in trying to be perfect and conform to the high standards for masculinity as defined by the press and media. This has led them to much soul searching and self-delusion.

The neurotic Phobos and the slightly deranged Deimos engage in word play and perverse physical jousting as they both compete to convince the other and the audience that he really will follow through. The characters are named after two of the Moons of Mars associated respectively with fear and terror.

Add to this a few subplots involving Phobos’s girlfriend Emily, Harper a possible love rival and Crow a loutish opportunist robber and you have an engaging and often very funny farce with some lovely set pieces of physical comedy and reversals of fortune.

Phobos is convinced his girlfriend is cheating on him and this drives much of the action of the play as he appears to want revenge on the man whom he mistakenly identifies as the rat. There is some fine comedic misunderstanding when the robber Crow, in a thrillingly enjoyable, thuggish performance by Paul Green, believes that the fact Harper is tied up is part of some sort of sexual game.

While the irony and slapstick are very well realised in the moments when the drama comes to the fore, such as when both characters soliloquize, the energy is a bit less focused, especially later in the play. The ending is perhaps a little drawn out, there having been various moments earlier when the piece could have ended equally satisfactorily. These are minor quibbles however as this reviewer thoroughly enjoyed the disordered brilliance of the play.

There are some lovely jokes, such as a dark running gag about the spelling on the suicide note and the moment when Deimos drinks the glass of water that is supposed to revive Phobos’s girlfriend Emily who has temporarily collapsed. There is great wit and brio throughout which keeps the pace going well, and the 90 minutes with no interval pass remarkably quickly.

The play works best when the two leads are bickering and brawl with each other. That is where the most inventiveness and heart of the piece lies. There is a definite whiff of the Coen Brothers movies in the blend of absurdity and violence.

As Phobos, David Bresnahan has an attractive stage presence and engages the audience with just the right balance of neurosis and earnestness. Ethan Holmes as Deimos shows the cerebral side to his character as well as the eccentric. Both leads work very well together and demonstrate fine comic timing in their frenetic partnership. That the audience suspends its disbelief at the inherent absurdity of the predicament is a tribute to their energy and skill. They are in effect like two sides of the same coin.

The other cast members also have their moments to shine. Jamie Beattie as Harper gets some laughs from his predicament of being tied up for most of the drama. Anna Reilly as Emily has perhaps the most difficult part. She appears towards the final third and needs to give bad news to Phobos about their relationship when we already know how much he adores her. Though more serious in tone, she carries this off very sensitively.

Overall there is a great balance between the comedy and the drama of the main suicide and subsequent hostage themes. Director Melissa Ward has evoked convincing performances from her talented cast. It’s the first full-length piece from Ryan Cerenko who is better known as an actor. This reviewer looks forward to enjoying more from the talented writer.

Reviewer: Andrew Edwards