Gethsemane is a new musical by John Richmond which tells the story of Nadi and Chloe, who were contemporaries of Jesus. This piece in currently in development as a full show and so plays out as a visual album in its current 100-minute form, with songs and narration.
Although the images are often simply complementary to the narration or songs, they are sometimes set out of their time – I can see why the parallels are being made (for example, with the homeless in a 21st century London). There are no actors and no on-screen performances.
The leading characters are Nadi, a carpenter who works with Jesus in the workshop and based on the “naked disciple” referenced in the Gospel of Mark, and Chloe, the daughter of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich merchant. Must Nadi fight the Romans with his brother Levi, or accept that Jesus is not the “warrior Messiah” expected by the likes of Barrabas? Chloe, Jesus’ closest friend, is also Nadi’s love interest.
I was sent the script along with the recording of this show, and in its current form it is needed to work out who is singing and who the peripheral characters are. For me, Gethsemane might work better at this stage as an audio show or concept album, and the songs as they currently stand do not clearly fit together as a coherent musical, and no performers are credited.
Clearly influenced by Jesus Christ Superstar in some of its themes, this show does not yet have an emotional centre or a powerful hook with which an audience can connect or identify. There is too much narration which I found confusing, although there is a strong and interesting story beneath which could be teased out with a little more thought.
Gethsemane has the potential to grow as a show but in its current form it only comes alive in fits and starts (Levi’s song “Heading North” and Jesus’ “Time” are two examples). This is a feature-length musical film utilising stock video footage which counts both for and against the final work, but there is no denying this is an unusual way of producing fringe shows which can be experienced at any time.
Gethsemane goes live online on 4th August with tickets available to purchase at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/gethsemane-the-musical
Reviewer: Louise Penn
Reviewed: 2nd August 2023
North West End Rating: