Immaculate

Religion is hardly a laughing matter, but Immaculate manages to go for the jugular of all Christian beliefs: immaculate conception. A single working girl with a suspicious trade finds out she’s pregnant. Trouble is, she hasn’t been with anyone in more than a year. As if that isn’t enough, the battle for ownership of the unborn one includes both humans and a couple of ethereal nemeses.

In a nutshell, that’s Immaculate, a whodunnit where there is no murder, but a constant barrage of comedy archetypes, including but not limited to the dumb ex-boyfriend, chavvy bubblehead friend, swanky devil, tired archangel and single mother-to-be.

It all starts with Mia (Sonia Jalaly – superb) sulking over the results of a home pregnancy test and trying to have a conversation with her best mate, the tocophobic Rebecca (Venetia Lambrick – channelling Vicky Pollard). Mia’s soliloquy about her horrible ex-boyfriend (Dom Gee-Burch) and her crap love life is interrupted by a man called Gabriel (Sean Linnen), who reveals he’s the archangel Gabriel and that the baby is the second coming of the Lord.

Further complicating the plot (although never making it tired) is the apparition of two more claimants to the baby’s father figure: an old acquaintance called Gary (Stephen Hall) and Old Scratch himself, the Devil (Nick Birchill, who seems to enjoy chewing the scenery).

The humour is quick, courtesy of the sharp pen of Oliver Lansley, who garnered great reviews in Edinburgh Fringe 2006 with this play (already optioned as a film, it appears). The playful nature manages to laugh at preconceptions and with the better known bits of Christian dogma.

The rapid-fire delivery of jokes works for and against, as some jokes do get lost in the midst of the roar from the audience. The amazing chemistry between the cast is certainly tangible. Special kudos also for the cast for not corpsing during the play, that certainly had to take some extra effort.

No ill-word can be said about the cast and the production team also excels themselves, keeping scenery, lights and props sparse and useful, whilst the sound choices (especially a rendition of Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’) made it an even more immersive experience.

Todd Baker, the director, notes on the libretto about how the play doesn’t look to “push boundaries or shine a light on ignored debates.” It’s intended for entertainment. It is certainly entertaining, pacey and extremely funny, but there is an old saying in Mexico about how “between jokes, the truth pokes”. Perhaps, amidst all the wit and humour, there’s something to think about free will and spirituality and where the line is drawn.

Samuel Valdes Lopez, Forge Arts, 18th  March 2010

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