The Messiah, New Theatre, Cardiff

Prepare to witness the nativity, played out in a way you’ve never seen it before!

Popular comic actor and expert improvisor Hugh Dennis takes on the role of Maurice Rose, head of the Maurice Rose players – which consists of himself and his sidekick, the unpredictable, childlike and hilarious Ronald Bream (played by a marvellous John Marquez, best known for his role as PC Joe Penhale in Doc Martin).

Both actors play inadequate actors –  performing a terrible script written by Maurice who has delusions of grandeur –  brilliantly.

Whilst the farce, a little audience participation and slapstick of the performance slaps you in the face, you’ll need to be attentive and to keep your ears pricked for plenty of clever and comical double entendres and mispronunciations casually and expertly delivered in the script.

The nation’s darling soprano Lesley Garrett plays Mrs Leonora Fflyte (Mrs F) brought in by Maurice to add some class (and beautiful arias of course) to the proceedings. Like the special guest appearing in a Morecambe and Wise play, she throws herself gracefully in to the proceedings – and into some of the slapstick scenes with aplomb. We’d have liked to have seem more dialogue and participation from Ms Garrett for this reason as for much of the time she is wasted, sitting side stage.

As the play unfolds from the attempts to be sublime to the resulting ridiculous, Ronald rebels against Maurice (his first act of rebellion being that he wears ‘the nose’ that he wanted to, as King Herod) and Maurice heads for a breakdown.

A laugh a minute, this play shows the story of striving for high glory and of ultimately finding something more valuable; enduring friendship.

On at Cardiff’s New Theatre until 3 November. Tickets are available from newtheatrecardiff.co.uk

Photos by Robert Day

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