The Narrow Road Virtual Tour Part 3

Who are you and who did you play in The Narrow Road?

Hi, I’m Simon Rodda and I played Jesus in The Narrow Road. 

What is your favourite part of the play?

When Jesus is praying, talking to his father, in the garden of Gethsemane. The gospel account tells us that all the disciples fell asleep while Jesus was praying ‘in agony’, so we have to use our imagination about most of what Jesus was saying.  Perfect for an actor, of course, and hugely helped by the language Paul Birch uses to paint vivid pictures of what might have gone through Jesus’s mind in the hours before he was arrested.

The speech starts with the famous cry to God: ‘Father, take this cup away from me,’ but the speech is then peppered with stories from the Old Testament (the ‘sacrifice’ of Abraham’s son Isaac) and what Jesus may himself have witnessed as a child growing up under Roman rule. The night in Gethsemane, where a man is sweating blood while praying to his Father in heaven, combines Jesus’s humanity and his divinity most starkly.

JESUS:       We worked, Joseph and I. His door always open. His tools always allowed in my hands. But…one day the door was shut. My mother pleading with the soldiers outside. Joseph arguing inside with a man whose face I could not see. There were threats. My mother dragged by her hair. The shouting stopped and my father put to work. No scripture passed his lips as he shaped the beams of the crosses. The crosses bound and shaped for the road that leads to this City of Peace.

© 2010 Paul Birch


What did you learn during the process?
I found this challenge of playing a character that is both God and man gave me insights into what Jesus was facing and also lessons about my own humanity. The following are a few lines of thought I pondered on as I tried to create Jesus on stage: someone who has complete authority yet is wonderfully personable; a man who works miracles but needs his time away from the crowd; a man committed to obeying the will of God but who knows he still has a choice.

What made you laugh most in rehearsals?
On what turned out to be our last day, once we had been told that the tour couldn’t go ahead, we all agreed that we would continue to rehearse and perform the show in the evening for a small audience, including those that had put so much work into getting this show off the ground. The show went very well and was a privilege to perform. However, after the crucifixion scene, as we had rehearsed many times before, I got carried off stage by my colleagues.  This time, my head smacked on a wooden step and made a booming sound. I was fine but, perhaps owing to the heightened situation or emotion, I couldn’t stop laughing (as quietly as I could) during a solemn moment of reflection. It felt like a fitting prelude to the resurrection scene!