As part of Have You Ever Wondered month 15 members of The Globe Church are performing The Mark Drama. James had a cup of tea with Charlie Watkins who is playing Jesus in the drama to find out more about it…
If you were describing The Mark Drama to someone in the church what would you be saying to them
That’s easy; it is each event recorded in Mark's gospel, clearly acted out. The drama takes the Biblical text, what Jesus and his disciples say and do, straight from Mark's gospel and then it builds around the descriptions of what is happening.
In its simplest form it is Mark's gospel but instead of reading it, you're watching it. If Mark's gospel was to be made into a film, it would be something like this… except it's a play.
What sets The Mark Drama apart?
It’s true. This all happened. We believe it. What makes The Mark Drama work so well is everyone who is acting in it doesn’t just know the events happening really well; they believe them, they are convinced and passionate about them. As an actor this changes how you approach it; you're not trying to be best actor in the world, you're trying to show how amazing and exciting these events are and how significant they were.
I think that this production does that really well, you get to see the faith of the disciples and how that grows and develops through the gospel. The key themes that run through the narrative really become so clear. You really see how people respond to Jesus, how they react to what he is saying and doing. You just see that the things that Jesus says and does are extraordinary; so many times in the gospel it says "and the people were amazed at his teaching" and it's because Jesus says and does the most amazing stuff!
I know that as Christians we're convinced by that, but he wasn't talking to Christians, he was talking to Jews and Gentiles, and the things he was saying were amazing regardless of who you are and what your worldview is. This is especially clear when he starts talking about why he came which is obviously the most amazing news.
What’s the difference between reading the gospel and watching The Mark Drama?
Part of it is the way it’s staged- The Mark Drama is theatre-in-the-round. The audience is sat all around the stage- the action is happening in front of you, next to you, behind you, and all around you so you very much feel that you're a part of what is going on. You feel like you're in the crowd watching Jesus, you feel like you are a part of the feeding of the five thousand, you feel like you are in the temple courts watching him teaching about why he came.
And then, for scenes where Jesus is being shouted at, abused by the crowds, yelling “crucify him” you feel part of that, you feel shaken by it. I've performed in The Mark Drama once before, acting in that scene was really hard as you yell “crucify him” over and over again. It really makes you realise that it was us that sent Jesus to the cross. I think those kind of scenes, the particularly intense scenes, really come alive in a completely different way on stage than when I’ve read them. It feels really real.
You're acting Jesus, how has your preparation for this role changed your perception of him?
There's so much. Right from the start I was praying that it would give me a greater vision of who Jesus was and is. It completely has. The script is written up as a book called The Mark Experiment, a couple of times each chapter the author writes "you might want to take some time to worship here". How often has that happened! Yeah, when you're going over these lines so many times, and each time it makes more and more sense you just think; this is incredible.
Have you got an example?
Sure! One thing is the patience of Jesus with his disciples when they don't get it. In one section you have the feeding of the five thousand and the disciples all go “we have nothing to feed these people!” and then surprise surprise Jesus feeds them.
Not long after that you have the feeding of the four thousand and what Jesus says is almost exactly the same, and disciples just don't get it, but Jesus continues to teach them, to disciple them. At the end Jesus asks them "who do people say that I am?" and they answer, "you're the Messiah". Jesus is so patient with them.
The most incredible miracles that Jesus keeps on doing, people don't always get them. But when you go through them so many times in preparation for this, you do begin to see them in a new light.
If you're sitting in the audience what are you going to come away with?
Right at the start of the gospel it almost feels light hearted, there's stories like the man coming through the roof to be healed, in some respects it's a funny situation. Though these scenes you're building up a gradual picture of who Jesus is, one of the main pictures- he heals people.
It's about half way through the performance that it gets serious. Jesus starts saying "I'm going to die" and his disciples are going "No way, this guy is great, he heals everyone". Jesus' response is "I've come for something so much bigger". By the last section, right at the end of the drama, you've seen all the things that Jesus has said, all the miracles he has done, but you also see that his plan and purpose has been so much greater. Jesus stops primarily healing and turns towards "I've come to give you life by dying in your place to take your sins away".
By the end you see that the things that Jesus has done, the things that Jesus has said, and you just can't dismiss them. There are people who say "Oh, he is just a nice teacher". After seeing this you just can't say that; he is just too powerful, he says far too controversial things- we're sinners deserving of death, but Jesus is the one who will die in our place. You do see an incredible teacher, who does perform amazing miracles, and then you see him give up his life for a set of people who reject him. When you're watching The Mark Drama you come away thinking "wow, that's incredible, he gave up everything for this purpose".
So, is this just for Christians to come and watch?
Absolutely not! In today's world people are far less used to reading long things. The Mark Drama engages people in a way that is so different to handing someone a paper copy. Cinema, Netflix subscriptions and YouTube they are all really visual mediums, this is how our culture is being engaged. The Mark Drama shows the gospel. It's not a wordy explanation, it's not a dry 30 minute sermon, it's an immersive experience happening right in front of you.
You see the reality of it in a new light, you see the relevance of this gospel– everyone needs this gospel. I think it is one of the most powerful and engaging ways to show someone what the gospel is. It gives them a really clear understanding of its truth.
What's the invite then? How do I invite my non-Christian friend?
Don't hide from what it is. Tell it to them straight. This is a dramatisation of the life of Jesus, the things he said, the things he did. There is no reason you should avoid telling your friends that this is about Jesus.
It sets expectations too, your friends know that you're not inviting them to a church service or to listen to a sermon, they're not making any religious commitment by going to it! It's a performance, it's just acting!
From there you can say something like "this is a way that you can see what it is I believe as a Christian". Because that is what The Mark Drama is, the narrative is at very core of what we believe.
If you’re anything like me, it can be hard to articulate your faith, you say, "I'm a Christian and this means that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for us" and that can be hard to be understood. An invite to The Mark Drama is inviting someone to see the life of Jesus acted out, and showing them what we believe as Christians, helping them to understand what we believe and hopefully we’ll have conversations off the back of that.
Finally, the event is happening 7.30pm on Saturday 10th March, what three things should we be praying?
- Obviously pray for each person who comes along, that hearts and minds with be changed to the truth of Jesus Christ, that they will come to know that he did everything they see during the performance was for them.
- Be praying for the actors involved, there is a huge amount to learn, there is only a short amount of rehearsal time. Pray that it will help them worship Jesus more and understand the gospel deeper.
- Pray for everyone who will be inviting people over the coming week, that they would be bold in their invitations. It's a great thing to bring people to!
Interested? Tickets are £5, you can buy them for yourself, your friends, family, and colleagues on Eventbrite: