By all accounts, people struggled to believe that Simon Callow CBE, protege of Sir Laurence Olivier and nominated twice for a BAFTA award, was coming to Spalding.
But anyone who thought that Callow’s model of how to act on stage in The Man Jesus at South Holland Centre on Friday was yet another live screening from London was sadly mistaken.
In less than two hours, the star of films such as A Room With a View, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Shakespeare in Love made it perfectly clear that he was in Spalding, live and direct, in person and in the flesh.
The Man Jesus was a respectful, historically accurate and powerful account of the life of Christ through the eyes of ten people who crossed his path in his 33-year life as a man “made of a woman, made under the law”, according to St Paul.
First century revolutionary Barabbas, arrogant ruler of Israel, Herod Antipas, and arch hand-washer Pontius Pilate were contrasted with the “You Only Live Twice” Lazarus, simple Simon the Fisherman and the courageous John the Baptist.
Callow also had time, and spare accents, to portray Christ’s earthly mother Mary, half-brother James, treacherous Judas Iscariot and Joanna, whose husband Chuza worked for Herod Antipas.
Readers have written to this newspaper in the past claiming to have seen shows that brought London’s West End right onto their doorstep.
But what Simon Callow managed to do was to transport the West End, New York’s Broadway and the Royal Shakespeare Company to Spalding in one night.
As the actor said himself: “Jesus doesn’t belong in a church, He belongs wherever He can most vividly be brought to life.
“Jesus is absolutely at the centre of Western civilisation and part of my fascination with him is why? What is it about this particular man and his story?
“Stories bind audiences together so that the energy in the auditorium rises massively as they experience the spell of the story.
“Is there any greater satisfaction than hearing a good story?”
Sorry if you missed it.
Review by Winston Brown