Pearly Gates – Camden Fringe, Museum of Comedy

Reviewer: Jane Darcy

Writers: Calum Macleod and Lara Cosmetatos

Director: Lara Cosmetatos

Pearly Gates on its first outing before the Edinburgh Fringe has moments of comic delight. Everyman figure, Sam Pellegrino, is in heaven’s waiting room, awaiting processing. A bored receptionist taps in his details, only to reveal Sam’s zero karma rating makes a permanent place unlikely. If he’s to avoid being sent to hell, he will need people from his past life to vouch for him. Alternatively he could be reincarnated, but the only choices on offer are lowest of lifeforms.

This set-up has potential but is uneven in its development. Sam meets his parents, who for no apparent reason, are also dead. Their indifference at seeing their son in heaven is funny, as is their existence, doggedly playing Dungeons & Dragons to while away eternity. But you’d need Samuel Beckett or Kafka to make this ennui really entertaining. It’s genuinely funny when Sam gets through to his drinking mates having a séance, but scenes such as the one in which newcomers play with yo-yos, complaining of boredom never quite hit the spot.

Pearly Gates struggles with an overcomplicated plot. Somehow Sam needs to be reincarnated as a cockroach to be reunited with his pet dog. There’s an entertaining comic video, stylishly directed by Dearbaile Collins, in which Sam and friends buzz around to the jaunty music of the Benny Hill Show, carrying out some complex task involving love philtres. But in general, elaborate plotting tends to dominate at the expense of characterisation.

There are some good performances along the way, however, the standout being Matt Davies who performs his variety of roles with great relish. These include a cynical St Peter as a overworked senior administrator moaning about Protestants wanting a direct line to God, and a rather wonderful Golum-type John Donne. Sol Alberman is funny as Dante, now relegated to giving guided tours of heaven. But the supposed obsession all the immortals share for kinky sex never quite works as running joke.

It’s early days for Pearly Gates and with any luck at Edinburgh the ensemble work will be crisper and every cast member will be able to project clearly so that the show’s comic ideas hit home.

Reviewed on 7 August 2022, then plays at  Edinburgh Fringe

The Camden Fringe Runs from 1-28 August 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Moments of comic delight

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