“Playing Jesus is a nerve wrecking experience. It is exciting, but it’s also scary and difficult at the same time”, states Rutger Remkes. The actor who plays Jesus in the play Guess Who’s Back went through all these emotions to play one of the most discussed figures in history. Performing with the theatre group Young Gangsters, the Dutch actor will be staging his own ‘stripped down’ interpretation of the son of God in front of Erasmus University spectators this week.
The play Guess Who’s Back revolves around the vicissitudes of an American missionary, Robert Freeman, who travels around spreading the word of God. The play sees a multitude of characters interacting with each other and the audience, following the travelling church.
You are playing the son of God in a play about finding ‘your inner Jesus’, should we expect a religious play?
“The backbone of the play is religion and how people cope with it and how they interpret it. It focuses on how believers or non-believers make their own story of it. However, this is not a religious play. I am not religious and so are many other cast members, which helps us to have a distanced vision on the subject matter.”
Robert Freeman seems to be the protagonist of the play, nonetheless the most awaited character is Jesus. What can we expect from your impersonation of Jesus?
“The Jesus I play is not the Jesus people are used to see. People have a rather idealized and mythical representation of Jesus, but at the end of the day he was just a common guy whose father was a carpenter. My version of Jesus is stripped of this holy and mythical aura. The reaction I am trying to get from the audience is ‘is that it?’”
Do you think this play might come across as controversial?
“When you treat such a debated topic like religion, controversies are inevitable. Our play is about the Christian religion, but this is actually an excuse to talk about all the other religions too. It happened that people walked away from the audience during some performances. Interestingly, those who left the show were non-believers. They declared themselves disturbed with the way we were playing with religion. On the contrary, once we had a pastor in the audience who complimented us. He appreciated that we stressed the variety of interpretations that believers can have and the way each of us personally relates to religion.”
Do you have a moment of discussion with the public after the performances?
“Yes. Sometimes, spectators stay longer to discuss with us. They feel the need to talk about the topic. Other time we organize those discussion moments, we have drinks and we encourage the audience to share their opinions with us.”
Why do you perform the play outdoors?
“Firstly, Young Gangsters only performs on location. This is because our plays rely a lot on the actors-audience interaction. We think that is best done when the play is not performed in a conventional setting where the public sits passively in a red chair. Secondly, we are trying to provide the audience with an experience as they are part of the show too.”
Why is interacting with the public so important?
“Well, the leitmotiv of the play is ‘you’ as in the audience can interpret the plot as they like it. What is interesting about this play is that everyone has a different interpretation of what they see. Robert, the missionary, talks to the public for the whole duration of the play. His goal is to engage, trigger a reaction from the audience. Interaction is key as it brings the audience to actively elaborate on what they saw.”
Guess Who’s Back will be performed on the Erasmus Plaza from Tuesday, May 31 to Friday, June 3. The play will start at 20.00 until 21.00, the price of the ticket varies between 10 and 13 euro.