Review of 'Holier Than Thou' at the Canal Cafe Theatre
For many of us, it’s the steadfast faith and belief into something bigger than ourselves is what keeps us grounded. The presence of religion (and associated rituals) in our every day lives cannot be discounted, especially in the UK where the Christian way of life finds itself in conversation one way or the other. For these reasons, the central premise of Freaky Geese Theatre’s new comedy ‘Holier Than Thou’ holds a lot of promise, but it doesn’t offer a substantial dramatic argument beyond a handful of clever one-liners and an intriguing character profile.
Photo Credit: Freaky Geese Theatre
Directed by Rhys Ashcroft and written by Dan Le Friec, we meet Reverend Keith Lorraine, who is struggling with his faith (and profession) after a series of intriguing encounters that have prompted him to have a ‘chat’ with the big boss upstairs. From a passionate affair with an elderly widow Delilah and questionable night outs with his friend Jason to recreational drug use (to put it mildly) as a coping mechanism, one might peg our young vicar to be devoid of the virtues the job demands. However, he’s fiercely committed to serving the community, as evidenced by his participation in his local community’s activities as well as his decision to have a frank conversation with God, who rarely answers back. The text’s narrative structure uses this one-way communication set up not only as a subtle nod to the ‘confessional’ storytelling genre but also allows us to witness the vicar’s darkly comic struggles.
Writer Le Friec also performs as the young vicar, using subtle physical humour to wring out the laughs from the text as well draw the audience’s attention towards the ensuing punch line. Whilst Le Friec’s performance is energetic, varied and responsive, the text itself does not reveal a larger narrative arc and instead, jumps between a series of seemingly unconnected occurrences and happenings. Some of these rely on trite comparisons (such as a hackneyed household conversation between God and Jesus) whereas a few offer a deeper insight into the unusual circumstances that led to young Keith to embrace the Church as a way of life. One of the genuinely funny sub-plots include our young vicar accidentally masturbating in a graveyard, highlighting the innate absurdness of the circumstances of his clandestine love affair as well as his obsession with his late geriatric lover. Whereas each reveal something more about the character, we struggle to find a throughline. Ashcroft’s direction relies heavily on spoken word and direct audience address to deliver the text, which requires a bit more work with tone and rhythm to allow the audience some breathing space.
To summarize, Holier Than Thou attempts to find the funny in a larger commentary about faith and those who carry that responsibility within our local communities.
You can watch Holier Than Thou at the Canal Cafe Theatre till Saturday 20th November. Read more and book your tickets at https://canalcafetheatre.com/our-shows/holier-than-thou/
Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer
Reviewed: 17th November 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★