Judas Noir is something new and exciting for Toronto theatre

BDB (Big Dreamers Brotherhood) Productions, a collective of seven Black artists including Leighton Alexander Williams, first produced Judas Noir last year at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace.

Leighton Alexander Williams, top, and Adrian Walters in Judas Noir. The standout performance is Williams himself as Satan, Karen Fricker writes. (Cesar Ghisilieri)

Before I get to my evaluation of this enterprising production, bear with me for some back story.

This is a new play, except kind of not. Director/writer/performer Leighton Alexander Williams adapted it from the script The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by the American playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, which premiered in 2005 in New York City. Guirgis’s play is an irreverent, foul-mouthed and passionate imagining of a trial of the man who betrayed Jesus Christ, set in a purgatory that looks and sounds a lot like contemporary Manhattan.

Williams was interested in using the play to explore parallels between the historical persecution of the Jews and the situation of contemporary African-Americans, and tweeted Guirgis proposing a production in this vein. Guirgis encouraged him to go further: to write an adaptation of the play drawing on his own experience.