Patrick Barlow’s The Messiah is heavenly(5 / 5)
I wouldn’t say The Messiah, written and directed by Patrick Barlow, does justice to the nativity story but it certainly provides great Christmas entertainment.
It’s a tale of hubris as two fallible human beings with very few resources attempt to tell an epic story, stoically ploughing on when things go wrong. Both are aware of the other’s inadequacies but not their own, which leads to much verbal and physical humour.
Hugh Dennis is wonderful as the pompous, egocentric, bullying Maurice whose lack of skills in English or drama has not prevented him writing and directing this story of the birth of Jesus.
John Marquez is exceptionally funny as his put-upon fellow actor Ronald who is so absorbed in his part that he is oblivious to not only of his lack of skill but also whatever else might be going on. His clowning and timing are in the tradition of Norman Wisdom or Eric Morecambe.
John Marquez and Hugh Dennis are comedy gold
Typical is the moment when Ronald was playing the Virgin Mary and got so into his role as a nine month pregnant woman that he went off script to berate Joseph, played by Maurice, for leaving her on her own. And the confusion between a handle you hold and Handel the composer was comedy gold.
It must be the most challenging of roles for an actor to play an actor who can’t act but when it’s done as well as this, the reward is an evening of constant laughter.
You have to admire these characters’ determination to create something meaningful despite their limited talent and resources – yes I know you’re thinking a bit like a YouTube blogger but actually like all humans. As the performance reaches an inevitable crisis, there also comes a recognition- appropriate to the time of year- that love is the greatest gift they and we possess.
The third member of the cast is a singer who provides appropriate songs at various points. It was a bonus to see and hear the great in this role although I would have liked to see her more integrated into the comedy.
For me, The Messiah stands alongside Nativity! as one of the funniest, most uplifting Christmas entertainments I’ve seen.
I saw the last performance of The Messiah at Richmond Theatre prior to its Christmas run at The Other Palace in London which ends on 5 January 2019
Watch The Messiah reviewed on the YouTube channel One Minute Theatre Reviews