The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

‘The Last Days of Judas Iscariot’ is a hilarious contemporary play for adults, written by New York Pulitzer-prize winning playwright, Stephen Adly Guirgis, when he was 40 yrs. old. Written in 2005, it is jam-packed with the full range of humour from secret innuendoes, thought-provoking statements, pious messages and jaw-dropping asides. With numerous F words and a couple of C words the show carries a ‘profanity warning’.

This laugh-a-minute (yes, the jokes are there if you can spot them), absurd comedy, which included a Titanic quote and mentions of Covid, were subtly blended into some profoundly serious passages of script.

The Irish Theatre Players are presenting this inimitable, fast moving and ambitious production, at the Irish Club of Western Australia theatre, 61 Townshend Road, Subiaco. Production liaison Claire Wynne met the challenge.

Show times are at 7.30 pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from 21st until 30th April. There is one Sunday matinée on 24th April at 2.00 pm. Be warned that this is a long, but entertainment packed 3-hour show (two 80-minutes Acts).


Situated on the auditorium floor, the theatre is ‘in-the-round’ with three rows of well-spaced, comfortable seats parallel on each side of the catwalk stage; these act as the courtroom’s visitors’ gallery. The actors are almost at arm’s length away, giving the audience an intimate involvement with this tragic story.

**Please note, seating is not reserved – you can choose your own seat on arrival

***Proof of Vaccination is still required by Irish Club of WA

The scene:           A courtroom today.

The set:                The 20 cms high rostrum forms the stage, a 20 by 4 metre courtroom with the judge’s bench at one end. A bentwood chair acts as the witness stand. The theatre’s permanent stage is painted black and with minimal lighting. Seated on the floor, centre stage, is Judas.

Set builder:         Aidan Murphy has built a solid wood, Judge’s bench.

Lighting:              The intricate lighting design by Don Allen, carefully picked out each character as they gave their thoughts on Judas.

Soundscape:      Josie Hacking and Daniel Toomath operated the subtle soundscape. With no direct vision, the teching was operated whilst watching a monitor fed by a camera on the curtain rod of the curtains that blocked the view of the stage. The techies did not miss a beat.

Stage manager and props:           Katherine O’Brien was kept busy with her buckets of tears.

A heartbroken mother, Henrietta Iscariot (Dayle Rasmussen) is mourning the death of her son Judas (Brian O’Donovan) who has just hung himself. Even though no mother should have to bury her son, poor Henrietta cannot get help – physically or emotionally – from any neighbours who are disgusted with Judas.

In a series of flashbacks, we watch as the real story and circumstances of Judas’s death unfolds. Judas is led into the dock, where, in a silent semi-catatonic state, he sits for the whole trial.

Silence falls over this kangaroo court in purgatory, as the highly prejudiced and disinterested Judge Littlefield (Alan Kennedy), enters with his bullied bailiff (Jamie Smith). The intelligent but sycophantic Counsel for the Prosecution, Youssef El Fayoumy (Andre Rodrigues) introduces himself as does the professionally dressed, fervent Counsel for the Defence, Fabiana Cunningham (Madelaine Page).

Throughout the surreal trial of ‘God and the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth versus Judas Iscariot’ various witnesses are called by each side. They include people who were there at the time, along with character referees from history. After the dignity of angelic Gloria (Shannon Murphy) came the foul-mouthed, lascivious punk, Saint Monica (Anka Sagan – wow, glad she is not my daughter) and leather clad Bikie, the conman Simon the Zealot (Jamie Smith) both of whom had been hired by the prosecution to ‘get the dirty’ on Judas and his friends.

Throughout the trial, the Defence called such notables and highly respected people as frail Mother Teresa (Anka Sagan), egotistical scientist Sigmund Freud (Grant Malcolm), Mary ‘Mag’dalene (Jessica Wilkins), Doubting Thomas (Shannon Murphy) and the bigoted senior Rabi, Caiaphas the Elder (Alan Kennedy); the lawyers then produced fascinating facts about these people as to why their testimony should be lauded or discredited.

Then follows the Prosecution’s witnesses including rogues such as the sensual and mesmerising Satan (Kate Manson) and the egotistical, charismatic but slaughtering cockney, Pontius Pilot (Zane Alexander).

Will Jesus (Mark Tilly) come to an amicable reconciliation? What made remorseful the head of the jury, Butch Honeywell (Grant Malcolm), vote the way he did?

Nicole Miller was given the task of supplying an angel’s outfit, a devil, and legal garments for the judge. Then the clothes for the honoured celebrities that appeared in the court case. Well done.

Thirty years ago, TV courtroom dramas were all the craze, but nothing came anywhere near this unashamed squabble. If you think that a religious court case sounds boring or of little interest, fasten your safety belts and prepare for a most thought stimulating and rough ride ever. All you learned at school seems to evaporate before your eyes as good solid arguments are questioned, along with new propositions or insinuations.

Brendan has selected a magnificent and dedicated cast, many of whom are award-winning actors and so I expected an impressive performance of this complex play; but each and every actor gave possibly their best performances ever. Many characterisations left one gasping as the lines were delivered with clear diction, often in an American or foreign accent, and with total chemistry between the actors. Every nuance of the meaning of the beautifully structured lines was expressed in the performers’ face and body language. Sometimes the dialogue was soft and caring, seconds later a full and emotional battle would erupt.

As the unwavering Judge, Alan Kennedy was horrendous as he brought real tears to the Defence Council, Madelaine Page. Madelaine, as Cunningham, had the audience distraught as she rode her rollercoaster performance of highs and lows whilst coping with the unrelenting, misogynistic opposition.

Grant Malcolm gave an arrogant and assured performance as Austrian psychologist Dr Sigmund Freud, delivered with a flawless accent. Then, a scene or two later re-appeared as Butch, a heartbroken Wild West hick, riddled with guilt. Alan returned as Caiaphas the Elder, a Rabbi who interpreted the 613 Jewish guidelines to suit himself.

Like Madelaine, Andre was on stage for most of the play portraying the manipulating and flippant Prosecutor. Although reasonably new to theatre Andre’s skills are top-notch. Every little sneer or gesture meant something. Stunning.

I have not seen Zane Alexander for years, but he has not lost a gram of his talent. As the smarmy Pilate he ruled the stage and held the audience aghast with his total lack of conscience.

The bit part actors? There weren’t any. Even the briefest of performances had been thoroughly researched and then the actors presented their individual moments of glory with pizzazz.

The whole play has obviously been well considered and handled by this talented director Brendan Ellis and his assistant director Caroline McDonnell. Brendan has added his own quirks and tweaked a few lines to make the play relevant to WA today. Some may consider the play’s treatment blasphemous, others may think it tasteless, but one wonders could it actually be accurate?

Guirgis was a Catholic that lost his faith, and this text is possibly him mockingly purging his soul. Whether you are a bible-thumping Christian, atheist or Satanist be sure to see this play and rethink your opinions. Was Judas the duplicitous master of his own fate, a much-suffering pawn used for Jesus’s ends, or just a man who made a mistake? Or was it simply a story built around the events? You will wonder was this script correct or the Bible? After all most of history was written by the winners. Time will fly and you will be amply rewarded.

Do not miss this powerful, emotion-packed production. It is quite unique in its style. Memorable acting at its best.