A new play is the setting for a revisionist take on God’s wrath, as he descends to Earth with a brand new set of commandments.
In the middle of Darlinghurst, at the rather aptly named Eternity Playhouse, an Act of God is taking place. In my humble opinion, the world needs more of these irreverent, utterly relevant, creative works that ask challenging questions in humorous ways.
God, it appears, is fed up with the constant bullshit people do in his name, and is here to set the record straight with a new and improved set of commandments. In the form of Mitchell Butel, actor at large, God takes us for a quick canter through some of the more well known, and on closer inspection, bazaar bible stories. We waltz through creation, the flood, poor old Abraham under instruction to murder his son, the book of Job (a vicious cruel streak in full display) and the life and death of Jesus in a 75-minute show filled with crackling charm and zippy one-liners. It’s not short of cheese, but there are real gems of cleverness in the writing, and from it, Mitchell Butel (the actor himself) moulds an impetuous, self-indulgent deity with too much time on his hands. Here is a god who is deeply flawed, terminally bored and selfish, playing…well, god, with the lives of credulous people looking for meaning and hope in an uncertain world.
God, it appears, is fed up with the constant bullshit people do in his name, and is here to set the record straight with a new and improved set of commandments.
It’s funny, but more importantly, it is unafraid to draw the obvious moral conclusions from stories that form the basis of belief systems that have done real harm to real people over millennia. Not least as regards to gay marriage rights, which gets a goodly amount of attention. And why not? It’s Darlinghurst, darling and it’s current, and it matters. If only we were brave enough to hold all dogmatic religious ideologies up to comedy’s searing light.
While Mitchell Butel commands the stage and has almost all the dialogue, he is not alone. A trinity of actors are present and accounted for. God’s sidekick is a rather sycophantic female Archangel Gabriel played by Laura Murphy. She looks beautiful on stage, a modern day diva dressed in skin-tight white, but it’s hard to work out what her role is beyond pandering to God’s needs and doing his bidding.
Perhaps she is meant to represent woman’s complicity in enforcing patriarchal ideologies. Mind you, she has a kick-ass singing voice that comes into play in the somewhat Hillsong vibe that wraps up the show.
In contrast, a rather sad and downtrodden Archangel Michael (Alan Flower) has taken it upon himself to ask the difficult questions. While god bears this with initial good humour, the angel’s persistence eventually annoys god to a temper tantrum of infantile egotistical wrath. I suspect a similar fate has befallen any sensible advisor in the office of Donald Trump. Perhaps inspiration has been drawn from current affairs in the shaping of God’s character on stage, but regardless, the current occupant of The Whitehouse does get his own brilliantly colourful call out, almost a throwaway, but my favourite line in the whole play.
To hear it you’ll have to get to the show sometime in the next two weeks.
An Act of God is being staged by The Darlinghurst Theatre Company until 25th February.