TELEVISION / A dance of ideas: Thomas Sutcliffe on 'Sorry, Judas'

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The Independent Culture
HOWARD Jacobson is nothing if not obliging. For Without Walls' 'Sorry, Judas' (C 4) he allowed himself to be made-up as an anti- Semite's nightmare (complete with ploughshare nose and warts), did a brief jackal impression, dangled from a noose and danced with a side of beef. I lost the plot a little during the last scene ('Judas - the meat in the metaphysical sandwich,' said Jacobson from between two dangling haunches), but then that was a feeling that occurred several times during this fierce and inventive wrestle with the Judas myth. I was going to call it a 'reflection', but anything less quietly contemplative would be difficult to imagine. Jacobson is one of television's great interrupters, jumping feet-first into his guest's sentences and splashing noisily about until you've forgotten what they were on about in the first place. He is not a model of intellectual generosity, but that seems a small price to pay for such animated engagement with ideas.

'Sorry, Judas' suffered a little in following his excellent series Roots, Schmoots; partly because it felt like a pendant to a more substantial work but also because Jacobson's restless style was better contained by the impressionistic travelogue form of the series. To be honest there was also a little hint of 'Are you still banging on about all that?', an example of gentile insouciance which was sharply rebuked towards the end of 'Sorry, Judas' when Jacobson talked with quiet anger over an image of a concentration camp victim, splayed by death into a parody of the Crucifixion. This wasn't just a facile shock: the image called back earlier arguments that Judas was as much a sacrificial victim as Christ, a reviled figure without whom the Christian passion could not have happened, and it reminded you, too, of one of the consequences of Judas' demonisation.

'If his name had been Sidney or Max we wouldn't have had this problem,' observed a Rabbi at a restaged Last Supper; his point being that the fatal pun in the first syllable of Judas' name provided a seed from which anti- Semitism could grow over the centuries. Jacobson wasn't going to take any of this lying down. The programme ended with a delirious reverie in which Judas was canonised (a giant nail-polished hand presented him with a spray bottle of 'Beatitude - for Jews with attitude') and the catechism was rewritten as an act of celebration of the reviled disciple. Now that's attitude.

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