Alan Morrison on

Son of Man 
by Dennis Potter
(1969)

This early outing of Dennis Potter is more than worthy of its controversial reputation, in its uncompromising portrayal of Christ as a rough-and-ready, paranoid and angry pariah played exceptionally by Colin Blakely. The play itself does not really say anything new about the Passion, but it manages to re-tell this episode of the New Testament with such unadulterated grittiness, that it marks itself out as a hitherto utterly unique and groundbreaking Messianic depiction (the forerunner to Martin Scorcese’s comparatively lightweight The Last Temptation of Christ). Blakely puts in what is for me possibly the most powerful and convincingly tormented performance I have ever seen in a television play. The sheer intensity of his portrayal convulses on the screen in a paroxysm of terror and epiphany, which makes for truly startling viewing. This Christ is quite clearly epileptic, and the implication throughout is that he is also afflicted by something resembling schizophrenia. What many Christian viewers might also find distressing to take is the sheer angriness of this depiction of Jesus. Blakely’s astounding performance is complimented excellently by the ever-saturnine Robert Hardy as a more sympathetically written Pontius Pilate. Exceptional viewing.

Alan Morrison © 2008