Thursday, 4 July 2013
The Book Of Mormon - what a blast!
Last night along with a friend and my daughter, I went along to see The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Piccadilly. It was a long awaited treat - I'd booked the tickets months ago as they'd virtually sold out the minute this 'hot ticket' show hit the box office. And I can see why. If you ask me 'are you a fan of musicals?' I will always say 'no'. It's not top of my list for an expensive theatrical night out, although if I'm really honest I have enjoyed all of the musicals I've seen recently, so maybe I'm a closet musical fan after all.
The Book of Mormon will be going near to the top of my most favourite musicals next to The Producers and The Lion King. Okay it's a bit blasphemous and you could throw the race book at it if you so desired but you would really be missing the point, and if it put you off going altogether then you'd certainly be missing out. Remember the first time you saw The Life of Brian? Shocked a lot of people at the time, but it's now considered a classic and this show, I'm sure, will be exactly the same. If you're a fan or are aware of South Park, created by the same writing team, then you really shouldn't be shocked at the edgy language and occasional lapse into extreme bad taste - it's all par for the course.
And how easily offended are you really? Let's put it this way, there were two Mormon missionaries in the row in front of us (distinctive haircuts, pink shirts and clean faces) who seemed to find it thigh-slappingly funny. It is sweary - not many would break that comedy taboo of mixing the 'C' word happily with the 'G' word (and by that I mean God) and setting it to music. There are jokes about female genital mutilation, not a subject for comedy surely, but in this context it worked. But if you're easily offended then stay away.
If however, you want to breath in the sheer joy of great performance and learn a little about Mormons, then this really is worth the wait and the ticket price.
I loved every brilliantly slick, perfectly timed, anarchically written, creatively choreographed second from the moment the curtain rose to the moment it fell.
The cast were wonderful - the all American style boys playing the Mormons were all white toothy grins and exaggerated mannerisms. While the cast playing the villagers and illegal army in Uganda were loud, strong and owned the stage with their song and dance.
Musically they've stolen from many a standard musical and sent it up. The set switches from the USA to mud huts in Uganda with ease, but what impressed me most was the feeling of absolute joy that you come away with for hours afterwards.
Taking away the songs about everyone having AIDS or maggoty scrotums for a moment (and to be honest it's not overwhelmingly like this, being more sweet than sinful) and you have a lot of food for thought. The underlying messages and debate that this brings to the surface are those that have been going on for decades at least. The premise that all religions are made up of stories and legends and change over time, becoming relevant for the people wanting to take part is the overarching theme. The fact that religions give hope and structure and meaning is a strong storyline. The fact that the downside of religion can be where it becomes over-controlling and replaces free thought is also referred to. I did laugh, a lot, but couldn't sleep for looking at the bigger picture and the points being made through swearing and song.
It's also a little bit bonkers which you'd expect from this comedy writing team. Darth Vader, Hitler, The Devil, a flight deck member of Star Trek and even Yoda all make an appearance even if only in the background but they all easily add to the theme of myths, legends and culture without just being there to be silly.
Don't dismiss The Book of Mormon, it's a love story and a story of human endeavour - go and see it to join in the debate. If the Mormons themselves laugh along then what's to stop you?
The Book of Mormon, Prince of Wales Theatre, Coventry Street, London.