AS SUBTLE AS A LIVERPOOL KISS AND AS DEVOUT AS A VEGAN IN LEATHER
by Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove
Directed by Sophie Roberts
Presented by BATS Theatre
at BATS, Wellington
From 2 Dec 2010 to 18 Dec 2010
[1hr 20mins (no interval)]
Reviewed by Phoebe Smith, 8 Dec 2010
It's census time in Bethlehem. The inn is bursting, Gabrielle's bitching, the Shepherd's bragging, the Donkey's braying and bastard boy-child Jesus Christ is coming. In fact, everyone's coming. Except poor Mary!
Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove's Christ Almighty! is a plethora of penis puns and an abundance of ass. This is the nativity story unexpurgated, a super-sized portion of titillation with a side of masturbation and a healthy squirt of Christmas leer.
In case you've been hiding under a rock (another of Jesus' specialities) or simply don't pop into the Pit Bar for a daily slice of BATS (read: house sav), Christ Almighty!, BATS 2010 fundraiser, is 8 monologues performed by a rotating cast under the direction of Sophie Roberts. Each actor has had 2 hours of rehearsal with the director and the rest has been entirely up to him or her. This process results in a loose, stand up quality that could have been disastrous, but is successful due to the high calibre of the actors.
Salesi Le'ota opens as the lackadaisical innkeeper and dexterously walks the line between comedy of vulgarity – the men all relish this opportunity to publically scratch their balls – and some more cerebral puns, which you have to buy your own ticket to bear witness to. His understated delivery is a highlight – particularly as we go on to meet several characters with a tendency toward shouting-as-emotion. He is most enjoyable when he makes no secret of either completely losing his lines or ad-libbing (“much funnier than the original script, might I add”).
Next we are introduced to the Angel Gabrielle (yep, looks like The Bible needed a better proof-editor) the bolshy, sexed-up Kate McGill giving God a good bollocking. And also giving mere mortals…well…should you find yourself lonesome at night, try to sit in the front row… but make sure you get a check up the next day, because she's already been making all kinds of revelations to the beer-swilling Shepherd (Jack Buchanan) who can't believe his luck and doesn't mind sharing.
Jono Kenyon delivers a physically demanding performance as the two wise men and dog – an incongruous but enjoyably schizophrenic monologue in the heart of the play. Balthazar, with saint-like patience, keeps our token-black, camp Caspar and Myrrh-devouring dog Melchior on track, only to be ruthlessly slaughtered by an all-singing, all belly-jiggling Asalemo Tofete in the guise of King Herod. This chicken munching, almost choking don is a crowd favourite – but not for the faint-hearted vegetarian.
After a short interval (every drink you buy is another daub of black paint or an inch of gaffer tape) we are introduced to the melancholic donkey (Stuart McKenzie) who's coming to terms with the fact that best buddy Joseph needs to reread Leviticus 18:23. While the jokes here can be seen from as far off as the guiding star, the change of pace and tone is refreshing after the tendency toward yelling in the first act.
Paul Waggott picks up this mood and strolls out as Joseph in his typical Simon Pegg style performance. Poor old Jo finds God a hard act to follow and lo and behold, all bestiality aside, he gains our sympathy as he quietly moans. After all, what's a carpenter without wood?!
Finally we meet Kate Prior's Mary in her final minutes of labour as she laments the careers that Joseph's Jesus could have had and we discover that God ain't all that. A few minutes shaved off each preceding monologue and we might have full focus for the final one.
Christ Almighty! is as subtle as a Liverpool kiss and as devout as a vegan in leather, but it is a lot of fun, it's a great cause and you can go again and again without seeing all the same performers twice! Blessed be.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.
See also reviews by:
Priyanka Bhonsule (Hutt News)
Laurie Atkinson (The Dominion Post);
Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);