Staged by the Tony Award-winning director Tom Morris (War Horse), an extraordinary production of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ played for four one-off stagings of the masterpiece at the Bristol Old Vic in April 2017. Each night a different actor played The Messiah and the night celebrated disabled actor Jamie Beddard took the role, was filmed for UK-wide cinema release for this coming Wednesday 28 March
With tongue firmly in his cheek, Jamie Beddard describes just what it’s like to get picked to play a religious icon.
“I obviously feel I’ve been destined to play the Messiah. It took longer than I imagined. I’ve seen the film and am delighted it’s getting such a broad release. It was a great thing to be part of.”
Inspired by Handel’s profound religious masterpiece, the acclaimed Bristol Old Vic production included renowned opera and concert conductor Harry Bicket, Europe’s most celebrated Baroque orchestra The English Concert, the glorious Erebus Ensemble and four giants of classical music Julia Doyle, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Joshua Ellicott and Brindley Sherratt.
“The best thing was getting the opportunity to work with some of the most celebrated classical musicians. I’m used to being in the company of actors so to be amongst musicians was a completely new experience. And it was really interesting learning about their experiences, ways of working and outlooks. And then to be in the middle of such incredible music was really spine-tingling.”
The Bristol Old Vic gave the role of the Messiah to four very different actors for each night it was performed. Aside from Jamie the role was also given to Toby Jones, Jessica Murrain and Nir Paldi.
“It was a really exciting decision on the part of Bristol Old Vic to cast four actors each with a very different physicality. It’s an extension of their colour-blind casting. The different castings bring different meanings to the Messiah, some intentional, some not. Theatre is in a very vibrant place with these kinds of decisions around diversity being made – and about time, too.”
For a disabled actor to play the role of the Messiah adds different, new interpretations.
“The Messiah gets cast out by his followers and, in many ways, there are parallels with the political climate around disability at the moment. In many ways my unique physicality contradicts people’s expectations of who Jesus was.
It allows us to reimagine who the historical figure might have been, away from the religious gloss that has determined how he has been understood for the last two millennia.”
The story explores the drama and struggle of faith, showing a group of people whose grief at the loss of their leader is transformed into hope through a narrative of resurrection. Through their despair, the Apostles gradually realise their mission is to redeem the world by sharing the story of Jesus’s life and death with all humanity.
Described by the critics as an ‘astonishingly beautiful’ (The Stage),‘direct and impactful interpretation’ (The Times), this dramatised concert is a rare treat for connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike.
Coming to cinemas for Easter 2018, this immersive dramatisation of Handel’s most iconic work will move even the hardest of hearts. Click on this link to find your local cinema here:
Jamie Beddard returns to Bristol Old Vic this coming June in a production of The Elephant Man, cast in the iconic lead role as Jospeh Merrick.
The Elephant Man is also a story of ‘otherness’, following the sordid spectacle of a travelling freak show, where Merrick is put on display to the horrified delight of Victorian audiences.
“There are loads of parallels between the experience of Joseph Merrick and the place of disabled people in society. Merrick shockingly gets cast out to the mob in the Elephant Man, and the current demonisation and disempowerment of disabled people bears much resemblance; albeit less viscerally.
The dehumanisation of disabled people allows those in power to do what they want and the story of Merrick is about fighting this dehumanisation. In these times, we need to be fighting more than ever to change the narrative we have been forced into.”
Written by Bernard Pomerance and Directed by Lee Lyford, The Elephant Man is a Bristol Old Vic, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and Diverse City production – a must-see at The Bristol Old Vic from Tue 26 June – Sat 7 July 2018.