A divine comedy, skilfully presented.
Mary and Joseph are together, but Mary’s been playing hard to get. When she announces her pregnancy, things get complicated when a voice from the sky claims paternity. Joseph stays, under threat of personal lightning strike, to raise the child, who reveals miraculous aspects as he goes through school. Elsewhere, the Church is going through some tough times, and enlists Believe In Me ad agency to help with its image issues. A saviour is needed, and after brainstorming, a casting call is put out. Young Jesus auditions, but is not considered up to the part, despite his little gimmick of turning water into wine.
Many tangential scenes come together to progress this performance from various points of view, encompassing a Sermon on the Mount that features a sales pitch for oxcarts, a rehab clinic with impressive results, a pair of persistent hymn singers, escalating marketing strategies and father-son bonding sessions. Particularly hilarious is a meeting between two earnest Jehovah’s Witnesses and “Mr Nomed”, who has a peculiarly horned hairstyle. The discussion between them is exquisitely written, and resolves all matters of religion that have ever caused friction or human disagreement – at least, according to Damon Lockwood’s director’s commentary that plays over the mimed scene. This surreal dimension runs through the whole performance, bringing an element of chaotic comedy that makes it unlikely to create offence with slightly blasphemous references.
Shane Adamczak has great fun in his role as Jesus, bringing some dramatic depth between relishing his superpowers and a sad revulsion at his biological father’s slightly creepy constant surveillance. Andrea Gibbs is a foxy Mary, as well as intelligently portraying many other characters. Her clear singing voice features with Talei Howell-Price, as they combine “inspired” lyrics with dragging organ chords to create an incredibly irritating ear worm for anyone familiar with mediocre church music. The pair also present the joys of probate and inheritance as the squabbling sisters of the not-so-late-after-all Lazarus, with wonderful comic timing. Howell-Price demonstrates dramatic flexibility and diversity as she moves between parts, as do all the performers in this rapidly shifting kaleidoscope of scenes. Brendan Hanson does not reserve his hilarious moments for playing Jepto-who-plays-Jesus, but is also wonderful as a bereaved Lot at a dinner party. Sean Walsh plays each extreme comic part with aplomb, particularly engaging as a seedy advertising executive and the mysterious Mr Nomed. Nick Pages-Oliver has great fun with his roles, and takes the audience with him as the baffled but faithful Joseph, and displays impressive facial control and impeccable timing for his part in the ad agency.
All technical work focusses on the performers. Cherie Hewson’s simple costumes and open stage design reflect the subject matter, while allowing the actors to move between scenes and roles with a minimum of fuss. Robert Woods’ sound design adds to the hilarity of the presentation, allowing classic conceits of a bellowing sky god and mystical musical accompaniment for miracles to add cheese to the entertainment.
Effectively written and performed, Jesus: No Ordinary Life seems to be as entertaining to present as it is to behold. While some cutting commentaries are made on modern lifestyles and religious institutions, the laughs keep flowing regardless. A cheat sheet is provided to ensure no one is left out of the joke, making this one for the faithful and heathen alike.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Jesus: No Ordinary Life
Presented by The Blue Room Theatre and Lockwood Productions
Written and Directed by Damon Lockwood
Producer: Talei Howell-Price
Set and Costume Designer: Cherie Hewson
Production Manager: Michael MacLean
Sound Design: Robert Woods
Performed by Andrea Gibbs, Brendan Hanson, Nick Pages-Oliver, Sean Walsh, Shane Adamczak and Talei Howell-Price
The Blue Room Theatre, Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge
16 June – 4 July 2015