The Gospel According to Philip is a new comedy from the Arrows and Traps Theatre Company, which projects itself into the crowded space of satire on the life of Jesus. With so many incredible examples of this having been done, the Gospel According to Philip is ambitious in its attempt to take on this subject.
Whilst peppered with a lot of great moments, there are a few overarching issues which subvert the comedic mood. In particular, attempts to make for a poignant final message seems a little out of place – there’s no need to disrupt the energy of the piece. A scene with Satan also does its best to preach a message that seems out of place.
With a solid cast, the stand out performance comes from Judas (Adam Elliott) – though Judas of course gets all the best lines. There’s some excellent physical comedy as well, particularly between Judas and Peter (Tom Telford). Of course, with a host of silly lisps and accents, there are moments when witty subtlety gives way to out and out folly. It’s still funny without the restraint.
Some of the repetition is used to tiring effect; the dopiness of the disciplines goes on slightly too long, and the homophobic jokes become very wearying. There is definitely a moment in which Paul’s long, drawn out homophobic rant sketch crosses the line of offensive without much payoff. There was definitely room to edit this production. A few sketches (e.g. the raising of Lazarus) fell a little flat.
In general, pace is the drawback of the production – comedy like this benefits from speed and there are several scenes which run just a little too long, with a long and downbeat monologue placed right at the end – the energy and mood of the whole suffers as a result of these moments.
Regardless, The Gospel According to Philip is a solid evening of entertainment, with clever wordplay and meta-humour. The self-referential moments are some of the best, a self-deprecating edge which adds charm to the production. There’s a lot of charisma to be found here, with the upbeat dance numbers also adding a lot of amusement. It’s fun, silly, and irreverent – if long.
Review by Christina Calgaro
The Gospel According to Philip is a brand-new comedy which takes an irreverent look at the events of the New Testament and is receiving its world premiere courtesy of critically-acclaimed, 3-time OFFIE nominated, Arrows & Traps Theatre Company.
Jesus is trying to organise his Lord of the Dance 30AD tour but he can’t keep control of the disciples. Judas and Peter can’t stop bickering. Paul is struggling with his sexuality. Matthew has some awkward questions regarding religion and James is utterly bewildered.
But thankfully it is all being doggedly written down by Philip who is desperate to become a proper disciple. This is the greatest story every told. Well, a bit of it. Funny, poignant and ridiculous, The Gospel According to Philip is an unsanctified black comedy about that time when we, sort of, maybe, kind of, killed The Son of God.