Monthly Archives: May 2011

Tales from the King James Bible, at St Barnabas Church

due to the arts cuts the supporting actors were replaced with bed sheets

Everybody is sat in pews, hymns are playing in the background, and a huge cross is hanging in front of us. It’s not a church service that’s about to begin, but a theatre performance.  As the King James Bible celebrates its four hundredth birthday this month, tributes have been coming through in the form of documentaries, exhibitions, books, and now theatre. Creation Theatre, who previously put on a play in Blackwell’s bookshop and an island in the River Cherwell, took on the epic task of staging the Bible in Oxford’s St Barnabas church.

The Bible stories are told through the eyes of a couple that are suddenly exiled from their home. They retell the stories to answer the big questions: does God care?  Why does he let bad things happen to good people? And, was it really all Eve’s fault? The stories are told thematically rather than chronologically, in turn the couple move from being frustrated to comforted by the process.

From the start of the production actors Tom Peters and Raewyn Lippert both launch across the stage with the force of David’s stone for Goliath. They climb onto tables, cling to pillars, and jump into the pulpit. Everything is snappy and smooth, moving from silly to sentimental in seconds.

Creation Theatre have aimed high: they’re covering some of the best known stories in the world, staging them in just under ninety minutes, and with only two actors. The overall tone is the Reduced Shakespeare Company meets Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Sodom and Gomorrah is brought to life by puppets, Cain and Abel’s feud is retold in the style of a spaghetti western, and Moses’ life is delivered in limericks. Lines like “I’m going below deck to find Jonah, there’s something fishy about that lad” fill the script more than the language of the King James Bible. The crucifixion, however, is genuinely moving, using harsh white lighting on the actors freezing to recreate images of Christ’s suffering.

If you don’t know the basic Bible stories, this will be difficult to follow. The majority of the audience was elderly with no diversity, something the company should do more to change. Here’s hoping for a miracle.

To see or not to see: * * *


Spotlight: Kashman Harris, Writer

Kashman writes for Eastender’s online spin-off E20, which was conceived in 2010 as the naughty little brother of the main show. The show’s writers, all aged between 17 and 22, were found as a part of the BBC’s new talent initiative. The show has created two series, and the third has been announced.

Why did you decide to become a writer?

I’m motivated by the chance to be heard, like most writers I guess. Though writing is something I developed a liking for from a young age, telling stories always seemed to have a cathartic effect on people. I wanted to be someone who could do the same.

What piece of art can you remember having an impact on you?

I remember from a young age watching a variety of TV shows, Quantum Leap springs to mind, mainly how it was my first experience with a genre hybrid of drama and sci-fi done so seamlessly. Also 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick, as it’s the most original and inspiring piece of film I’ve ever seen, it made me realise how films could pose questions to an audience and make them think.

Are there different obstacles facing black and ethnic minority writers?

If there are any obstacles it’s finding the outlets for work, but they are there, it’s just how hard you look for them. I can’t say that I’ve faced many obstacles in regards to my ethnicity. There are new schemes within corporations, such as the BBC, where they are expanding their horizons to reach groups that they wouldn’t normally. Such schemes give minorities a chance to enter the industry from a grass roots level, and that’s essentially how E20 started.

What are the common stereotypes that appear in stories about young people?

I think the common misconception is that young people, regardless of colour, have this definite, uncivilised way of talking. In other words, slang. It’s important that writers who choose to write stereotypically show both sides of the coin. It’d be wrong to act as if the stereotypes didn’t exist, but it’s also possible to have a story where young people are not represented in a stereotypical light.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a writer?

I’d recommend Talent Circle, but also joining up with your nearest theatre group, mine was the Oval House Theatre in Kennington. If you have an idea, get it onto paper as quickly as possible. Mainly it’s to be patient with yourself and understand that the results won’t come if you’re not putting just as much work in. Writing is a complicated career choice, but if you’re truly passionate about it then you’ll be able to persevere.

Follow Kashman on Twitter, and click here to find out the latest on the BBC’s E20.