Gary Sinyor’s first play ‘NotMoses’ draws its narrative arc from the Old Testament books of Genesis and Exodus. It comprises a sequence of scenes, which start with the original patriarch, Abraham, and conclude with the evacuation of the children of Israel from Egypt by someone other than Moses – NotMoses. In short, it is a comic rollercoaster that rollicks through a host of Sunday school stories.
This unconventional journey re-examines and re-imagines the gender roles of our much-lauded forbearers, with the women faring rather better than the men. In this biblical setting, it is not about who wears the trousers, but rather who blows the proverbial horn. The play opens with grand-matriarch Sarah impressively summoning her husband to dinner with the original bugle, the shofar. Abraham enters and tells her all about his little chat with god, who has instructed him to be circumcised. Sarah, a liberated woman, informs him in no uncertain terms that he can do what he likes with his ‘bit’, but she is not having it done to hers. The action swiftly moves on to Abraham’s next attempt to please god by sacrificing his son, Isaac. According to this version of the tale, Isaac simply declares his father to be a lunatic and matters proceed no further.
The play continues in this irreverent fashion, hop-scotching through the connivances of Rebecca, Isaac, Jacob, and Esau, Joseph’s acquisition of a coat of many colours, taking us on to Egypt, where the worlds of Moses and NotMoses collide.
Funny in part, NotMoses occasionally groans under the weight of its own clichés: “Do you know each other?” Miriam and NotMoses are asked. Her reply: “Not in a biblical sense”. Although the play does its best to blend current affairs and contemporary issues (some of which work rather well) into the biblical framework, if you are not familiar with the classic texts or are not broadly familiar with Jewish humour, this play may not be for you.
But for those in the know seeking an unorthodox evening of light entertainment, this production does deliver. The patchwork narrative is essentially a vehicle for laughs – some of which work better than others. The cast has clearly made the most of the script and performances range from the competent to the outstanding – Greg Barnett and Danielle Bird are particularly noteworthy. Carla Goodman’s set and costume are beautifully deployed, enhancing the occasion of every scene.
- Written and directed by Gary Sinyor
- Set and costume design by Carla Goodman
- Music by Erran Baron Cohen
- Cast includes Greg Barnett, Danielle Bird, Antonia Davies, Dana Haqjoo, Jasmine Hyde, Joe Morrow, Thomas Nelstrop, Niv Petel, Leon Stewart
- Arts Theatre, London
- Until 4 May 2016
- Review by Rivka Jacobson
- 18 March 2014