OH MY Lord – The Messiah at the Birmingham Rep
I haven’t laughed so much that my ribs ached since I don’t know when.
Then of course this new show by the master of turning ‘Cast of Thousand Epics’ into bite size miniature comedic masterpieces, Patrick Barlow has got to offer high expectations. As the creator of the National Theatre of Brent Barlow has satirised and miniaturised such challenges as The Zulu Wars, Wagner’s Ring Cycle and of course The complete life and Works of Shakespeare.
Turning his attention to the Nativity story and Handel’s Messiah, Barlow (who also directs) has created a magical masterpiece. Cleverly this does not make light of religious beliefs but more explores mystical happenings in ground breaking ways. Who would’ve thought that two men playing Mary, Joseph and a Midwife could do such a touching job of re-enacting the holy birth? Yes we laugh but it is also quite beautiful and indeed mystical.
Hugh Dennis plays Maurice Bromsgrove Rose and John Marquez plays Ronald Bream, actors playing actors who in turn play a myriad of roles from Angels to Romans via Wise men, Shepherds, May, Joseph et al, They are both quite simply – in a word -wondrous!
They are supported by a third member of their ‘company within a company’, the superb soprano Lesley Garrett who plays Mrs Leonora Fflyte a guest singer who links everything together with recitative from the Messiah (basically she mostly sings the bits between the arias). She also occasionally joins in the fun and frolics as a third king amongst other cameos.
There is a sub-plot occurring where the actors bicker and vow never to perform together again hug and make up before the curtain – also noteworthy is a hilarious audience participation Roman Census scene.
The set by Francis O’Connor is very clever and transports us magically twixt heaven and earth, through deserts and mountains to the little town of Bethlehem.
Although I feel that as good as it is, the cast will crank up the gears even further now that press night has gone and they can relax.
This production is destined to become a Christmas treat for years to come.
Coming out onto a star filled sky in Centenary Square at the end of the show, sharing the moment with a still laughing audience, this reviewer was left with the feeling that for a short time anyway – all was well with the World.
The Messiah runs until Saturday, October 27.
Visit https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/the-messiah.html for more information and tickets.