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Resurrection Blues

Published April 17, 2008

How would people react if the Son of God returned to the world now, revealing himself as a guerrilla in a revolutionary war? This is a question, whether Miller meant it to be or not, that stands at the centre of his final play Resurrection Blues, which is currently playing at the Old Vic. A suitably high profile cast and director have been assembled to present the premiere of Miller’s revised version of this play, which was completed shortly before his death in February 2005. Matthew Amer attended the first night…

High in the mountains, where mist rolls in and out of scenes, a country’s military leader is in turmoil. A leader among the rebels is held in such high-esteem by the people that they believe he is the Son of God. His ability to seemingly walk through walls and emit a bright light at will also confirm these suspicions.

In every good military leader’s handbook there should be a section about what to do if the Son of God threatens your grip on the country. The answer, of course, would be to crucify him and sell the filming rights for $75 million. Imagine the good that could be done for the country with that money; the removal of dead babies from the street, arranging proper dental care for the prostitutes…

It all raises certain moral issues. Is it entirely proper to film a man slowly dying on the cross, and to advertise diarrhoea cures throughout the broadcast? Matthew Modine’s savvy producer Skip has no problem with it, worrying more about whether the prisoner will scream, as this may be off-putting for an audience. Director Emily, played by Jane Adams who, like Modine, has previously worked with Resurrection Blues director Robert Altman, has more of a problem, but finds herself in the position of being able to bargain with military dictator Felix (Maximilian Schell), who sees her as the one person that can help him to function again sexually.

The rebel leader, referred to by constantly changing names, is much like Godot; everything revolves around him, but he is never actually seen. He saves the life of Jeanine Schultz, the daughter of Felix’s cousin played by Canadian Neve Campbell, and restores her ability to walk, makes hippy-follower Stanley talk in tongues and, by his presence alone, draws the nature of our money-obsessed world into question. The final question to answer, though, is will his public execution make the world a better place or result in a bloodbath?

Resurrection Blues is playing at the Old Vic until 22 April.

MA

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