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The Gospel According to St Luke
The Star
By Niluksi Koswanage

Staging the Bible in Malaysia has always been a strictly religious endeavour but Gardner & Wife's latest presentation of Broadway actor Bruce Kuhn's The Gospel According to St Luke shows that the 'good book' makes for great theatre.

Bruce Kuhn's one-man show, The Gospel According to St Luke has played to a variety of audiences. While his first performance in 1982 took place in the secular Actors Theatre of Louisville in the American Midwest, Kuhn has predictably staged The Gospel in churches across the United States. However, he has also toured a large number of college campuses and large city theatre spaces where the members of his audience hail from different world religions or profess to be atheists.

Soon enough, Kuhn brought The Gospel to the United Kingdom , Poland , Yugoslavia , Germany and other European countries. Even Sudanese refugees, jam-packed in an Anglican cathedral in Cairo got a glimpse of The Gospel, last year. Now The Gospel, which aims to make people from all faiths and creeds look afresh at Western culture's best known story, has been stirringly resurrected by Kuhn last Tuesday at the Actor's Studio Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur . The Gospel is Kuhn's 90-minute synthesis of the birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ as written by Saint Luke. The route Kuhn takes through this superficially familiar but difficult terrain has been charted by literary and dramatic, as opposed to spiritual, criteria. And so, there is the rush of witnessing a miracle or an exorcism, the high stakes of the Last Supper, the utterly subversive but compassionate manner that Jesus engages with his enemies and followers.

Kuhn has brought all the excitement in his compelling story telling, holding the audience's attention with his widened silver-blue eyes and incessant bounding around a rather sparse stage. The immediacy of Kuhn's performance probably comes from his use of the King James Bible of 1611. The language is very sinewy and rooted and never lets the audience go too far on a tangent. Scribes and Pharisees react incredulously to the miracles performed by Jesus: "We have seen strange things today." A centurion looks upon the crucified Jesus: "Certainly this was a righteous man" - we are invited to share in the amazement and awe. Yet, what remains compelling is Kuhn's actual fleshing out of Jesus. Here, was a Jesus who tried to knock sense into his followers and enemies with earthy parables, who calmly tore apart established institutions, who compassionately performed miracles, who preached the subversive doctrine of "love thy enemies" and who combined a messianic righteousness with a chockful of cheekiness. And that is exactly where The Gospel succeeds: Jesus is made larger-than-life and a whole lot more accessible to Christian and non-Christian members of the audience, who want a more humanistic glimpse of this extraordinary person.