The sacred and profane collide in Jo Blake and Carbon Theatre’s new performance The Witness, inspired by the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.
Moving through humour, bold physicality and intricate storytelling, The Witness reveals how one woman’s buried 2,000-year-old history comes into the life of a contemporary woman, demanding that the missing pages be written anew. While she was never formally branded a heretic, Mary Magdalene – one of Jesus’s companions, often negatively framed and misportrayed as a prostitute – and her teachings have long been pushed to one side, and never legitimised by the Church. But three copies of the Gospel have now been found, having been buried in the sands of Egypt for the last 1,500 years. All three copies have the same missing pages, but those that remain reveal Magdalene to be a spiritual adept and closest companion of Christ.
Mary’s fragmented testimony has been exiled and denigrated over millennia, emblematic of the omittance of women, their voices, and bodies in Western society, religion, and its teachings. The Witness is brought to life by Midlands-based interdisciplinary performer Jo Blake, who examines Mary’s ‘heretical’ Gospel and how she has from the start been suppressed and dismissed, reframing it as necessary and courageous female testimony.
Blake comments, I’m thrilled to finally be bringing this story to light… it has taken quite some time and effort! There is so much in Mary Magdalene that feels relevant to our times, for people of any faith or none – she is courage, endurance, transformation. There is no ‘one’ Mary Magdalene. The Witness is our imagining of her, and her missing pages.
Alongside the touring performance, the multimedia exhibition strand of the Heresy project, Hidden Lineages, will run at Delapré Abbey over Easter. Working with three other artists, the exhibition explores, reframes and questions heresy as a courageous and life-giving act of transgression, that affirms a long-denied lineage of feminine spiritual knowledge.
Blake, known for her contemporary storytelling training course Body, Breath and Story, her solo storytelling performance Blodeuwedd Untold, and community project 60 Miles By Road or Rail, has been working on bringing Mary Magdalene’s story to light for the last four years.
The Witness installation will be at the Grosvenor Centre from 9th – 18th March, with the exhibition at Delapré Abbey from 7th – 16th April. The performance will tour Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester in late March, before heading to The Core at Corby Cube, the Stantonbury Theatre in Milton Keynes, The Holy Sepulchre Church, Northampton in April, and Royal & Derngate in May.
This performance is funded by Kenneth Fund and Arts Council England.
VenueRoyal & Derngate
AddressGuildhall Road, Northampton, Northamptonshire,
Box Office01604 624811
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Premier Inn Northampton Town
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