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Birmingham Repertory Theatre

The Messiah
4.0Reviewer's Rating

The Messiah by Patrick Barlow tells the story of a playwright, Maurice Rose (Hugh Dennis). Rose is joined on stage by his bumbling counterpart, Ronald Bream (John Marquez) and Mrs Leonora Fflyte (Leslie Garrett) to act out the most famous story ever told – the birth of Jesus. This travelling theatre troupe of two actors and an opera singer portray a story that everyone knows, but this new comedy leaves its audiences feeling like it is being told for the first time.

A tale traditionally told amidst the glow of Christmas lights and mulled wine – but while the inherent message is obviously the same, somehow this production doesn’t feel part of the ‘festive season’ at all. It stands alone and stands strong as evidence to impeccable storytelling which doesn’t rely on anything but its quick and witty script. A mix of some classic jokes you may find in a cracker, but balanced with a modern sense of humour in the form of dry sarcasm and subtleties. Marquez particularly must be commended here, as his portrayal of Ronald was a fine example of how to fill an auditorium with delicate humour. The audience hung off his every move at points, moving forward this highly character driven production.

I feel perhaps the purpose of the Opera singer in this travelling duo was lost slightly in amongst the comedic chaos. Whilst I can’t fault Garrett’s talent or portrayal of the sterling and feisty Mrs F, her interludes of opera sometimes feel like filler as a costume change into a from Mary to Wise Man occurred behind the curtain. This, however, did not detract from the immense talent, and at times was very much in-keeping. The peaceful break from non-stop comedy just after the baby Jesus was born (spoilers) matched with a beautiful rendition of Silent Night was perfectly placed.

To be able to eradicate expectations of a story as well known as this one is quite an achievement. This production is light yet full of grandeur, and manages to fill the huge auditorium to the brim. This is a great play to watch whether it’s Christmas or not, but a glass of mulled wine in the interval wouldn’t go a miss.

  • Comedy
  • By Patrick Barlow (with additional material by John Ramm, Jude Kelly and Julian Hough)
  • Directed by Patrick Barlow
  • Cast Includes: Hugh Dennis, John Marquez, Lesley Garrett
  • Birmingham Repertory Theatre
  • Until 27 October 2018

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Katie Webster is a Drama and Theatre Arts student at the University of Birmingham. She enjoys watching original theatre as well as new adaptations of classic plays. She recently spent five weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe as a production intern with Baby Wants Candy.

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