This is a peculiarly kiwi sort of entertainment – get a tall poppy (a new guest star each night), and try to cut them down in front of a slightly drunken, fee-paying audience. When said poppy gets through all the challenges with humour, talent and beaming good sportsmanship, and only then, will they be treated with the respect that they deserve. It says something about the big talent and heart of Madeleine Sami that however much you try and drag her down, she stands resolute.
The show opens passionately with a ridiculously over-choreographed song about how terrible life is on earth, how everyone is unhappy, how the internet is slow, etc. God is unhappy because no one seems to be praying to him anymore, and would quite like to have a rapture and be done with it. However, heavenly protocol requires that first humanity be tested to see if there are any decent people left. Suitably, the only female virgins found are lesbians, and because God is impatient, the second messiah is born - full grown and ready to sort out modern life. Well, ‘modern life’ – everyone is dressed in the style of ancient Damascus, and the set has a theme of hemp, but they have cell phones…
Half the show is musical comedy, based on the style of Jesus Christ Superstar, and half is left up to the guest star – who plays Jesus – to improvise their way through various scenes; an interview with a chat show host / getting advice in a bar / performing spontaneous miracles – for which he/she will have been left blissfully unprepared, and any prior knowledge of the New Testament is of no use whatsoever.
It feels, at times, like the whole thing will fall apart into nonsense, but it becomes clear as it goes on that what seems like improvisation on the edge of disaster, has been very carefully constructed by director Oliver Driver to ensure whatever may happen on the night will work out. Great song and dance numbers are interspersed with silly and funny lyrics, and an increasingly difficult set of trials for Jesus (so perhaps, actually very like the New Testament). I don’t want to spoil it – the show is a mixture of satire and very humorous indeed – but it is suffice to say that the core cast of Gareth Williams, Hayley Sproull, Julian Wilson, and Victoria Abbott are all superb, and Madeleine Sami is a superstar.
The Basement Theatre, until 19 December
header cred: Andi Crown Photography