Religious satire has long been a rich source of material for comedians; one inevitably thinks of Monty Python’s Life of Brian or Mitchell and Webb’s Evil Vicar sketch. It is this vein that Mansfield student Tasha Dhanraj has attempted to tap with her new comedy Father God, a hectic, almost farcical, three-person piece concerning the divine trinity and its exasperation with humanity, performed at various locations within Mansfield.
The play sprints through both Testaments from the perspective of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Tom Barnett played the almighty God, affecting a Pacino-esque Manhattan drawl and growing steadily more irate with the mind-numbingly stupid activities of us here on planet Earth. Reuben Adams played a moping, adolescent Jesus who frequently sulks over his lack of responsibility, much to the annoyance of his shrill sister, Holly (Holy Spirit, you see?), played by Helen Harvey. A bright red telephone provided the conduit to Earth, and it was through this that we learn of mankind’s progression, from Cain and Abel to the nativity itself.
The writing is genuinely funny and notably intelligent. A scene in which God and Jesus argue over the Ten Commandments (originally the Fourteen Instructions apparently) was particularly memorable. However, the most common font for humour were the conversations on the bright red hotline to humanity from which we hear only one side. It was here that we learn of Moses’ infantile tantrums (“Put him in a basket in a river and the waves will rock him to sleep”, Jesus advises), Joseph’s technicolour dreamcoat (“I don’t care how many colours there are!”, snaps the Holy Spirit), and Jonah’s unfortunate exploits (“I don’t believe it, he’s got himself stuck where?”, moans the Father).
Unfortunately, the originality and quality of the script was let down by some nondescript performances. Adams’ Jesus was painfully wooden; although his sullen teenage attitude is convincing, any more sophisticated characterisation seems beyond him. Harvey’s Holy Spirit was disappointingly shallow, her range of emotion wavering between irritatingly shrill discontent and annoyingly loud unhappiness, with only occasional glimmers of comic timing.
Barnett, on the other hand, with his accomplished New York accent was a joy. His exasperation was thoroughly enjoyable and he delivers the play’s funniest line with laudable panache: “Omniscient, omnipotent, omni-pissed-off, that’s what I am!”. He was the only one of the three who truly did justice to Dhanraj’s writ- ing, confidently expressing himself without fear of mistake.
Despite two questionable performances, Father God was a commendable production. At only 40 minutes long, Dhanraj’s gentle satire was a delectable treat, and Barnett’s God will live long in the memory.