"This Christmas Comedy Levitates High"
by Debra Hall for remotegoat on 23/10/18

Maurice and Ronald, and opera singer, Leonora (her stage name), are a theatre company trio. They enact 'The Messiah' as this fictitious third-party set-up; and we’re a fictitious third-party audience. The instability of the three’s strained relationships off-stage means that irritations and tensions rise up upon it.

Maurice is a serious sort, secretly fragile and rather hung up on the particulars, Ronald is enthusiastic and keen to please one minute; then he’s equally as stroppy and dejected the next. Leonora is the only true talent out of the troupe; the boys are keen to keep her sweet so that she stays on-board.

Much of which applies to the award winning ‘The 39 Steps’ by the same playwright (Patrick Barlow) you can hang on this body of work. This play too, airs on the funny side of being silly and is intentionally frivolous for laughs.

Major TV talent, Hugh Dennis, with his dry humour and understated approach to comic performance is perfect for the part of Maurice. He does wonders with the lengthy lines and at the end of Act II we see him animated and energetic in scenes - quite a surprise! John Marquez as Ronald is extremely amusing and there's much in his performance to admire. He is definitely a stage professional; his physical movement is almost clown-like. Like Dennis he is so incredibly dead-pan sometimes, and, together, their comic pacing and timing is remarkable.

Lesley Garrett is as melodious and lovely as one would expect and she even gets in on the acting. On the occasions when all three players morphs (extremely unconvincingly) into other nativity story persons and celestial angel(s) it is quite a sight to behold! The coming together of these three in rehearsals must have been a hoot.

During Act I particularly, you will be engaged and laughing, though Act II is a bit of a blur. On leaving I was momentarily speechless as to how to describe this show; but whatever you think there’s enough to enjoy overall to not feel short changed.

A play not designed to be anything more than slight in one sense; despite the large canvas of a story that is told. While on the other hand there's some lovely theatrical moments and clever techniques used. However, though I didn’t see any evidence of filming on press night, I’m wondering if we will see this play in some form of TV scheduling over Christmas. A Nativity Story of the funniest kind.

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