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Holy Sh!t – Riverside Studios, London

Reviewer: Chris Lilly

Writer: Jack Fairhurst

Director: Rosa Higgs

Father Ted meets Burke and Hare in this pitch-black farce from Brick Fox Theatre Company. Two priests at an undefined but presumably Catholic church, seek new ways of securing funds for repairs and restoration. Tombola and fun runs have been tried and the returns are inadequate for the church’s needs, so they resort to more radical schemes. A review of the church’s assets indicates that monetising the contents of the graveyard is a financial shoo-in. An ethically unchallenged surgeon from a nearby teaching hospital completes the morally questionable fund-raiser.

Jack Fairhurst has written a weird farce, that lampoons religion with Joe Orton-ish brio, and updates the idea by folding in 21st Century episcopal dilemmas like decaying buildings and declining congregations. The Brick Fox company give a consistently full-throated approach to this material, though it does feel a bit like an attack on vanishingly small and, fairly out-dated, targets. The most significant moral dilemma it highlights is not the actions of the priests, which get well delineated by the snappy double act of Rafael Aptroot and Jack Dillon, but the casual medical malpractice of the Prof, gleefully presented by Kieran Taylor-Ford who doubles and trebles with joyful quick-change energy. That dilemma gets no consideration at all, because it’s a very light-hearted pitch-black farce, but it might be worth a cursory examination. The Prof seems to have money to burn, which seems unlikely in today’s cash strapped NHS.

The design is very basic, and the scene changes, which are entirely predicated on the speed with which the cast members can get on and off stage in a blackout, are distressingly clunky. The farce would be greatly helped by more fluid, more dynamic direction. If there’s no furniture to shift then there’s not much excuse for slow changes. Jack Dillon puts in an impressive shift as the hipper of the two priests, and Flora Douglas’s accidentally crime-busting WPC is very good value.

This is an 80-minute-long piece of fluff with a cynical 21st century edge, it doesn’t take itself at all seriously and doesn’t expect the audience to spend much time thinking about ethical dilemmas, but it does feel slightly old-fashioned, taking pot-shots at not very relevant institutions. Burke and Hare were real, Father Ted skewered a Catholic church that dominated Irish politics, Joe Orton’s Loot was genuinely shocking. Holy Sh!t uses outrageous tropes to poke fairly mild fun at fairly insignificant targets. Lots of laughs, not much food for thought.

Runs until 17 Dec 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Farcical, funereal, funny

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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