“Love Life Of Brian? Then you’re going to love this!” declare the posters for NotMoses. Well… not exactly. While Gary Sinyor’s new play certainly pays homage to the Monty Python classic, it fails to live up to the wry, cynical charm and crackpot humour of the film. This is not entirely the author’s fault; the idea that organised religion might be – ahem – slightly flawed has now become so widely accepted that religious satire no longer has the shocking impact that it once did. Maybe the timing is just wrong. That said, while it was never going to be ground-breaking, the potential is there for some lovely, gentle, enjoyable mockery. Sadly, NotMoses ultimately fails to deliver.
To be fair, the first half isn’t actually bad at all. Our hero narrowly misses out on becoming the redeemer of the Israelites, and is named NotMoses as a constant reminder of the disappointment he has been to his parents. The real Moses, meanwhile, is jack-booting around the Pharaoh’s palace annoying his brother and terrorising slaves, in blissful ignorance of his actual parentage and glorious destiny. The story of how the two meet is well crafted, and there are some ridiculously comic moments involving the legless Pharaoh, his haughty wife and their hapless younger son Rameses. The word play is quick-fire, leaving the audience barely enough time to recover from one joke before gambolling gleefully onto the next, and if the humour is sometimes a little puerile – well, it is none the worse for that.
Hopes are high for the second act.
Unfortunately, these hopes are soon dashed. The second half drags; old jokes are re-hashed, the story meanders, and the humour becomes even more juvenile and crass. Bodily function jokes abound, and the whole thing becomes a bit poo-bum-willy (silly). The actors do their very best to keep the energy levels up, but to no avail. The play wilts and so do we.
On a positive note, there is some lovely acting. Thomas Nelstrop’s Moses is a charming dilettante, and his razor sharp comedy timing rescues many an awkward moment. Joe Morrow camps it up splendidly as the leather clad, whip wielding henchman Feripoti, and Jasmine Hyde does a very funny turn as the Princess. Danielle Bird is a lovely, spirited Miriam, and if she struggles with the delivery of her final, impassioned speech on the rights of women and the misogyny of organised religions – well, who wouldn’t? What an odd thing to stick at the end of a comedy.
The play is somewhat redeemed (pun intended) by superb film projections. Provided by Lola Post Production, the luxuriant images of the Israelites labouring away on the pyramids and later a troubling deluge of frogs are simply glorious, and do much to bring the piece to life. Sadly, it is still not enough.
NotMoses is a good concept, and – at times – rib-achingly funny. It is also patchy, childish and overlong, and it ultimately collapses under the weight of its own – and our – expectations.
Review by Genni Trickett
NotMoses makes its world premiere at the Arts Theatre from 10th March 2016. Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Gary Sinyor, this “gleefully irreverent new comedy” runs for a strictly limited 10-week season.
The man, the legend, the saviour – this is the incredible true story of the abandoned baby who became absolutely none of these things. From the River Nile to the courts of the Pharaoh and out into the desert of Sinai, NotMoses reveals the woefully unheroic journey of one man who was so very nearly Moses and who so very nearly led the exodus but his Dad wouldn’t let him.
Thou shall have a riotous evening of laughter at this jaw-droppingly funny new show that is definitely true and in no way made-up. NotMoses runs at the Arts Theatre for a limited season so book now and prophet from the best night out in London.
6-7 Great Newport Street, London, WC2H 7JB