Theatre | This Is Christmas | Ken Longworth

REWORKED: Theo Rule, of Grainery Theatre, left, on stage in a scene from his popular musical, This Is Christmas.
REWORKED: Theo Rule, of Grainery Theatre, left, on stage in a scene from his popular musical, This Is Christmas.

WHEN actor-writer-and-director Theo Rule put together in 2013 a musical, This is Christmas, which used carols and yuletide songs in telling the story of the nativity of Jesus Christ, it was popular with audiences at a Newcastle suburban venue.

Rule’s church-related company, Grainery Theatre, is staging a new, reworked version of the show for two performances on December 23, this time in the Civic Theatre.

The focus in the original production was on the Biblical account of mother Mary’s conception of Jesus, with an angel telling her husband, Joseph, who was concerned that his virginal wife was going to give birth to a child who was not his, that she had been chosen by the Lord to conceive a saviour for all mankind. It also underlined the circumstances that led to Jesus being born in a manger.

Rule, who won a CONDA in 2016 for Best New Play or Musical Written for a Newcastle Company for another Christmas musical work, Saviour’s Day, which looked at the impact the ferocious Cyclone Tracy had on the lives of people in and around Darwin when it struck on Christmas Day in 1974, and was nominated in the same category this year for a very different Christmas story, Mrs Monacelli’s Christmastime Spectacular, has revised and added to This is Christmas, with the changes giving the story more relevance for contemporary audiences.

He said he has fleshed out the characters, and shows what life was like in Judaea, the then-name for Israel, under the control of a Roman Empire governor, Pontius Pilate, who presided over the trial of Jesus, and declared that he had not found him guilty of a crime warranting execution, but nonetheless sentenced him to death.

Flashbacks show the development and nature of the relationship between Mary and Joseph.

Rule noted that his research showed parallels between the story’s era and today. Pontius Pilate, for example, had statues of the Roman emperor erected in all the Judaean temples to emphasise his country’s control. And many of the nationalistic Judaeans weren’t happy with Jesus when he began voicing his views because he gave no indication of being a violent revolutionary.

Theo Rule, who co-directs with Susan Irwin, also plays one of the Three Wise Men. The others are Jared Mainey and Jeremiah Succar. Hannah King and Stuart Brown are Mary and Joseph, with other principal roles filled by Amelia Urquhart and Steve Durrheim. There is a 40-member ensemble, with an orchestra conducted by Lindy Connett providing the music for the largely contemporary Christmas songs. 

This is Christmas has performances at 4pm and 7pm on December 23. Tickets: $10.20, children under 12 $7.15. Bookings: 4929 1977.