The Mysteries RSC, Stratford; Unicorn, London

Katie Mitchell's beautiful production of The Mysteries ends with the last occasion on which the apostles meet and share a meal with the risen Christ. Before leaving, Paul Hilton's superlative Jesus kisses each of them full on the mouth and, as he walks away, says: "Follow me". Both poignantly and stirringly, Mitchell's staging shows how the meaning of that injunction has now shifted and deepened. Instead of trooping off after Christ, as they have done before, the silent apostles gradually get up and, each shouldering responsibility for spreading the word, strike out in different directions.

It's significant that this version of The Mysteries should climax on earth with a pensive and inaugurative moment for mankind rather than down in hell with the fulfilment of God's forethought on Judgement Day. Made up from bits of all the medieval cycles and from scripture, Edward Kemp's two-play script - The Creation and The Passion - arranges and inflects the various stories so as to replace the heaven / hell scenario of the original with the theme of a return to paradise through human beings taking responsibility for themselves. You'll wait in vain, here, for the fall of Lucifer or for a smug chairman's report from God at the close of business.

Kemp is a man prepared to characterize even the Gospels as "fraught with ideologically unsavoury baggage" and some of his introductory remarks make you fear that political correctness will lie like a pall over the proceedings. In fact, staged with a lovely, elemental spareness and charged simplicity, and performed by a manifestly dedicated company, the two productions move, engross and delight throughout.

Happily, the devisors haven't dropped the idea of a deity. But from the moment when, in pitch darkness, we hear a groan turn into a chuckle and then into the whisperingly repeated, nursery rhyme-like chant of "let there be light", you get the sense that David Ryall's God - a rum old party, like some benignly bemused ex-member of the Crazy Gang - is making things up as he goes along. After the fall, he offers mankind the hope of re-entering paradise in promising them the Oil of Mercy. Thanks to the inclusion here of the not-so-well-known story of Seth (the son of Adam who travels to the gates of Eden to quiz the Angel of Justice), a recurring and growing symbol of that hope, hung with ever more petitions, is the tree that sprouts and is replanted from the seeds Seth is instructed to place in the mouth of his dead father.

A more familiar take on The Mysteries can be seen now in Richard Williams' likeable production for children at the Unicorn. Driven forward by fetchingly sung and harmonised spirituals and gospel numbers, the show appealed very much to my nine-year-old assistant but was an odd experience for me, coming to it the day after seeing the Mitchell. Take the treatment of Judas. If somebody had to betray Jesus, wasn't Judas in a way doing him a favour, my daughter wondered, after seeing him presented as the conventional malcontent in the Williams. She should have come to the Mitchell for there, so loth are they to demonise anyone, Jesus treats Declan Conlon's pained, dignified Judas as almost a loving co-conspirator, returning with fervour the kiss of betrayal.

Given to standing on his head when alone, Paul Hilton's Christ is a wonderful mix of a boyishness not yet outgrown and a precocious, piercingly paternal solicitude for his followers. His is the first Jesus I've ever heard making "yum, yum" noises before symbolic meals and the first whose love for mankind has seemed so winningly unmetaphysical.

RSC, The Other Place (01789 295623); the Unicorn, to 13 April (0171-836 3334)

Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tv Review: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series began tonight with a feature-length special
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee