Holy Crap! – King’s Head Theatre

Holy Crap! continues at the King’s Head Theatre, London until 30 June.

Star rating: two stars ★ ★ ✩ ✩ ✩

The Heather Brothers – past masters of pastiche – return to the London stage with Holy Crap! – a ‘satirical’ burlesque that takes a sideways look at two industries ripe for ridicule: televangelism and porn.

Think Rocky Horror and Jerry Springer meets Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens then put these glorious romps aside, for this tasteless confection lacks pretty much any of the wit and charm of its antecedents.

The faltering fortunes of the pay-to-view GOD TV channel leave the operator no choice but to seek alternative means to make money – money that is, by the way, being laundered by the Mafia.

The answer is to introduce the remaining faithful to hardcorn pornography, the theory inspired by the notion that one must understand a sin in order to combat it. Of course, it proves to be hit and the channel goes from strength to strength.

The cockeyed scheme is the brainchild of American televangelist Bobby Del La Ray [sic], played with devilishly sexy charm by John Addison.

Bobby convinces the straitlaced Rex Bedderman (Arvid Larsen) and his virginal girlfriend Destiny (Letitia Hector) to front the pornographic offerings, and to ensure that the gullible pair are totally sold on the idea, Bobby’s girlfriend Clarissa LaFayette (the excellent Rachel Marwood) fakes a sighting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, channelling her messages of support and encouragement.

Also thrown into the mix is Bobby’s partner in crime Vinnie Ginelli (Nuno Queimado) – a camp gangsterish Italian – and a narrator (Emma Salvo), with various other characters played by Peter Bindloss in his first professional gig.

The cast does a commendable job with the Heather Brothers’ rather weak, predictable – and lengthy – material, gamely keeping the action ticking along and rarely betraying their embarrassment.

They’re all of strong voice (when heard above Rickey Long’s good but poorly sound-balanced band of two keyboards and percussion) and give it their all.

Benji Sperring’s enthusiastic direction ensures that a couple of numbers really explode to life – the best being Bindloss’ wonderfully expletive-laden Italian patter-song pastiche – but these highlights are few and far between, with the majority of numbers merely riffing musically on predictable gospel choruses.

The script has its moments too, but again not enough, and it’s far too long. In my notes, I scribbled ‘great end to Act 1’, only to hear, with dismay, another two or three numbers before the act finally ended. I started to think it might have been a one act show but it wasn’t to be.

Act II takes its inspiration from Luke 15:7 – “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent” – by taking things up a notch and introducing the idea of a travelling live sex show in which the faithful participate, given them something sinful to repent.

Then things go really pear-shaped, as the sex-obsessed populace turn feral and martial law kicks in. It’s an interesting idea but it merely serves to elongate an already stretched one-gag show, and no number of sex toys and fetishwear can rescue it.

So, well done to cast and band, but you have my sympathies with the material.

A good bit of trimming and focus – and perhaps a more serious exploration of the satire – might help Holy Crap! to find its audience, although ultimately I’m not 100% sure who the audience is.

It’s the kind of frivolity that might go down well on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as a camp student romp, but in its current form it can’t aspire much higher.

Craig Glenday

www.kingsheadtheatre.com

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