I am Mark is a new interpretation of the gospel according to Mark (an Applecart production). A new interpretation that seeks meaning in the story for our time. A new interpretation that forces those for whom this is so familiar to hear this story as if for the first time.
Jesus is the Crowd Gatherer, who gathers crowds intentionally and incidentally, and welcomes the crowds when he would rather withdraw to 'meditate on the Deep Wisdom'. Oh, the language - I was in such delight!
The Crowd Gatherer gathers in 'Echoes of the Ancient Tribes', confronts the 'Religious Weights', opposes the 'Great Invader' and his 'President', and, in the end, 'gathers himself' in anticipation of gathering all that lives.
Mark tells the story, helped by friends who sing and tell stories, too. Mark is imagined to be the one stripped naked in the garden as the Crowd Gatherer is arrested. He falters in the telling, as the story challenges and frightens - perhaps too much for his listeners to bear. But they go on. The women closing the telling with a hope that the story has anointed their listeners, and we have been gathered in …
There is a terrorist on the screens on stage, who talks almost feverishly, devilishly, to the camera. For the first half of the show, I was not sure who this terrorist was. By the end, it seems he is the one the crowd releases, he is - I think - Lord Storm, the antithesis of life, the one humans will choose to follow because the Crowd Gatherer disturbs us more … and the paradox of this is more clear than ever before.
Stories and blessings are offered, the Wine Songs of the ancients, the blood songs of tradition. At times the frustration with the corruption of the ancient tradition and Temple seemed almost too close to hatred and outright rejection. I'd have to see the show again to reflect on the interpretation of this element of the story some more.
Comedy weaves throughout, as narrator and helper tell the story of a paralysed man being lowered through a roof - classic miscommunication and word play combined with a play on being in a play as one actor says to another, you didn't tell me that before, well I was playing the other guy wasn't I, as he had laid down and jumped up several times between being the paralysed man and a window cleaner offering to help.
Another time, we meet two demons in a pub having an existential crisis about demoning, in a clever musing on how we have changed our understanding and naming of evil in the world.
Then we get a peek into the strained conversation of the Religious Weights to whom Jesus has posed a question they cannot answer either yes or no without seeming to undermine their position, the Temple, their understanding of who I Am is. Their grasping at 'I don't know' as their get out of jail free card is a devastating challenge to any religious leader - to what are you most committed, your own position, or Deep Wisdom? [and this morning's reading was, coincidentally, from the parallel passage in the gospel according to Matthew, which called this scene back to mind as the preacher reiterated the challenge to all who follow God to do so with integrity, humility and courage).
Ultimately, this story tells us of the message that the Crowd Gatherer tells and embodies: through this I Am Child, I Am is closing the distance, and seeks to gather us all into the Realm.
There are a few more performances of I am Mark scheduled, if you're in the UK - get along to see it, this is a story that will, indeed, anoint you and gather you in.