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Godspell

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
2 stars
Any play that gave Jeremy Irons a career is surely damned forever more. Given that we don’t even get ex Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, who left this touring revival of John-Michael Tebelak and Stephen Schwartz’s 1971 God-bothering musical for ‘contractual reasons,’ any chance of lightning striking twice is slim.

Because the pre-Christmas rush seems to have caused commercial theatre-land to go mad in its eagerness to offload every turkey in the shop. Paul Kerryson’s naff-looking production is as far removed from the play’s not quite counter-cultural roots at La Mama and The Roundhouse as you can get. The stripy-jumpered post-1960s flower-power whimsy captured in the sweet but hopelessly dated 1973 film version at least pursued a simplistic line of philosophical enquiry. Like a water-into-wine reversal, however, here the disciples have morphed into a troupe of twenty-first century X-Factor rejects desperate to show how versatile they are.

The parables are duly reeled out in a succession of sit-com silly voices and painfully shoehorned in Glasgow gags. Any Hallelujahs in the show’s easy-on-the-eye briskness come via a dusted-down Bacharachesque Day By Day. All Good Gifts, on the other hand, sounds peculiarly and not unappealingly reminiscent of The Wicker Man soundtrack.

One shouldn’t expect miracles, though, from a show that can’t yet muster a full set of disciples, and, with a saviour looking like a particularly angelic rent boy upstaged by a butch Judas in black leather waistcoat, this is school assembly stuff. By the time the crucifixion comes round you’re feeling the pain for all the wrong reasons. If anyone is saved here in a show unlikely to rise again, it’s Stephen Gately. Small mercies indeed.

The Herald, November 21st 2007

ends

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