8th – 11th April 19.30
8th, 9th and 11th April 14.30
The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Camp as Christmas. They are the best three words I can think of to describe this performance. From the opening gambit where Jesus gives the blind sight to a burst of white light and the ever familiar booming overture of the title track right down to King Herod’s nipple tassels and Judas’s Neil Diamond Resurrection garb. It’s tits, teeth and divine belief all the way. But having said that isn’t that what we’ve come to expect of Webber et al? They even had X-factor, silver fox, pop opera freak Jonathan Tweedie as Pontius Pilate for Christ’s sake! Just one step away from full blown panto. And as entertaining as panto is I did find myself more distracted by the enthusiastic gesturing of the composer than the action on stage at times.
In fact the music was definitely one of the saving graces. Though these aren’t the strongest tunes in the Webber / Rice repertoire there were some genuine moments of mouse ear tight, butt bouncing funk. All be them occasionally inappropriately and, at times, hilariously placed. There is also a great deal of strength in the concept of the piece. Coming as it does from the points of view of Mary Magdalene, Jesus (of course) but largely Judas, who is painted in a refreshingly sympathetic light. He was definitely one of the most likable characters in the production. Far more so than the annoyingly alpha hippy, Goldie locks Christ. I also like the fact that it makes you question whether this is an atheist or Christian telling of the story. Especially when you consider that Tim Minchin (the atheist’s own head court jester) recently starred in a London big budget production of the show. But back to the Edinburgh show and hats off must also go to the spectacular lighting. The singing was also largely impressive but a few buff notes were definitely evident which will hopefully be ironed by the rest of the run.
So if you’re a fan of Webber / Rice and you know what to expect then I expect you won’t be disappointed. But if you crave more avant-garde, philosophical, mind bending fodder I suggest you look else where. Panto for the pious (or not).
Review by Steven Vickers