Dramatic enactment of the Gospel of Mark by actor Max McLean

A YouTube search yields several dramatic readings of the Gospel of Mark, including an excellent one by actor David Suchet. But the dramatic enactment of the Gospel of Mark by actor Max McLean is in a class of its own. McLean dramatizes dialogue, of course. He also uses the stage and all of the actor’s craft to keep the audience interested and engaged. His performance is a tour de force.

McLean’s performance supports my identification of editing

McLean uses the received text of the Gospel of Mark. There are several features of his performance that support my claims that the text has been edited. Here are two examples. First, the story where Jesus has been on the stage without interruption since his entrance in Chapter 1, suddenly transitions to a flashback about Herod, and a description of Herod’s banquet (Chapter 6 of the Gospel). The viewer of McLean’s performance sees that he has to move through undramatic territory until the dramatic banquet scene gets underway. (I think the Herod material was entirely conveyed by a messenger, and was never staged.)

Second, when McLean performs the Olivet Discourse (Chapter 13 of the Gospel), he presents the text up to and including 13:20 in a level voice. Obviously, McLean recognizes that this part of the Olivet Discourse doesn’t build emotionally. Yet the words warn of apocalypse! McLean begins to speak dramatically at 13:21. His enactment of the Olivet Discourse is consistent with my analysis in the book. (There, I propose that most of the material before 13:22 was added by an editor, and only at 13:22 does dramatic momentum start to accrue.)

If I were in McLean’s place, I would make a few different dramatic choices, but that is because I have a theory about what was the original text (behind the current edited version), and he takes the received text at face value. In any case, everything he does is worth watching. Interestingly, he ends the performance with Mark 16:9-20. I am sure he recognized that the empty-tomb scene (Mark 16:1-8) was an anticlimactic ending for a 90-minute dramatic performance!

McLean’s performance explains Mark’s need for a secondary text

McLean’s enactment is shorter than the performance of Mark’s play. Based on my experience, I cannot imagine that the audience at the play noticed more than a few references to Scripture. Like me, the audience was engaged by the actors and the action onstage moment by moment. McLean uses sound, music, and visuals in addition to acting. A full-scale play also had costumes, props, backdrops–and other actors. The audience was absorbing, not thinking. If Mark wanted his audience/readers to appreciate the Scriptural sources of (some) dialogue and scenarios in his play, Mark had to create a text for readers. Only readers could stop and reflect, and check the other texts for themselves.

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