Joseph Mawle, shortly to be seen on our screens as Jesus in the BBC's take on The Passion, will play Judas in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Mawle has always switched between television and the theatre, so in many ways his stint at the Almeida is nothing new. Yet at the same time it's a fascinating choice for his next role. The Almeida's website describes The Last Days of Judas Iscariot as a "hilarious and extraordinary court-room drama where history’s most infamous betrayal is dissected by the forces of good and evil."
It will be interesting to see how this turns out given the fate of other actors who have played Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth's Robert Powell struggled to find any more serious work and ended up being Jasper Carrott's sidekick in The Detectives. Ted Neeley decided to make playing the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar his career, and James Caviezel hasn't exactly done a great deal since starring in The Passion of the Christ. So is this an attempt to make a clean break from The Passion by playing the opposite character straight after? Or did he find the subject matter so engaging that he immediately sought to explore it from a different angle? Either way, whilst it may be precisely the thing that enables him to have a decent career post-Jesus, I suppose there's a risk that he might end up being type cast.
The most notable example of the same actor playing both Jesus and Judas is John Drew Barrymore who played both roles in 1962's Ponzio Pilato. Other notable oddities are in Godspell where the roles of Judas and John the Baptist are often played by the same actor, and I seem to recall that the aforementioned Ted Neeley was originally planning to audition for the role of Judas rather than Jesus.As for the play itself, there's a good preview at Indie London which describes it as
...a time-bending, serio-comic drama in an imagined world between Heaven and Hell that re-examines the plight and fate of The New Testament’s most infamous sinner. In a trial of "God and the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth versus Judas Iscariot", figures ranging from Pontius Pilate to Sigmund Freud are called to testify.One last connection here is that the original version of Last Days was shown at New York’s Public Theatre in 2005, and was directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman, of course, had previously featured in Along Came Polly as an actor who is playing the roles of both Jesus and Judas in an am-dram version of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Guirgis’ distinct and utterly contemporary voice uses the violent, chaotic energy of modern America, and particularly of New York, to explore timeless questions of free will and responsibility, of faith and fate.