By Fiona Leckerman
The promise of writer and director Gary Sinyor’s new play NotMoses, playing at The Arts Theatre, is a comedy of biblical proportions – according to the strap line – and a biblical-themed comedy it was, but the proportions were questionable.
NotMoses recounts the bible from Abraham, Isaac and Joseph (who turns his nose up at the coloured coat) to Moses leading the Jewish slaves out of bondage. It’s a gag a minute, Monty Python meets Exodus romp through the bible, with an ensemble cast that work hard to keep up with the quickfire quips.
When baby Moses is rejected by the Egyptian Princess for incessant crying in favour of the next baby to float down the Nile, the first infant is named NotMoses in honour of the Princesses new baby son, Moses – who later trains to be an accountant- while NotMoses’s fate extends only to slavery.
NotMoses is an atheistic cynical character who questions religion, but does not make fun of it. Whereas Moses is portrayed as a privileged buffoon, his transformation into leader of the Jewish people made even more comedic when he eventually hears God’s voice in the form of the burning bush and is transformed into saviour – acknowledged by the sudden growth of a beard and a magical staff.
Much high-jink’s ensue with brilliant performances from Joe Marrow as Feripot, a pitch perfect camp Egyptian task master, who saves the show from frequent lulls; and Danielle Bird is lovely as Miriam.
Where NotMoses suffers is its length. The first act is too long, which not only slows the pace but could do with the trimming of non-essential scenes.
The frequent set changes are reminiscent of a sketch show cobbled together to create an am-dram feel.
However, there were plenty of moments where the audience did erupt in laughter and there are flashes of brilliance with cleverly-placed theatrical devices in the form of a Jesus-God/father-son triste; plus a plague of plastic frogs falling into the stalls.
NotMoses is funny and fun, but like the speed of its one liners it’s easily forgotten.
NotMoses is at The Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street until 14 May.