The Bible... (Abridged), Norwich

CHARLES ROBERTS For a predominantly young and full house audience at the Theatre Royal, the three strong team in the latest of the “abridgements” shows, could do no wrong.


For last night's predominantly young and full house audience at the Theatre Royal, the three strong team in the latest of the “abridgements” shows, could do no wrong. And for much of the time, the threesome thoroughly earned it.

One still admires enormously their fine-honed stagecraft, their exhilarating timing and their irrepressible comic spirit.

But it was difficult not to feel at times that the recipe which originally was so exhilarating – evoking an almost uninterrupted stream of laughter – has grown a little thin.

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One pointer supporting this view is a second half scene in which two embarrassed girls were hauled on stage from the audience.

Well they might be embarrassed. What followed was a sing-along routine which, tediously long as it was, would have died even in a pantomime.

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Could it be that the script writer had run out of ideas and needed a quarter hour of padding?

Having said that, there were some splendid moments, not least a David and Goliath routine which stopped the show.

It was entirely in mime, and done with such zany, calculated, brilliantly timed humour that it set aroar the whole house, this reviewer included.

Now in Old Testament annals, there's a subject which has to creep in somewhere. Circumcision!

Not a subject to amuse – except that in this instance, God, loudly off stage, joins in the act, and reveals a wickedly irreverent sense of humour. His punchline, which delivers a solar plexus pile-driver to Fundamentalism, earned a roar of mirth to lift the roof.

In New Testament territory, the three wise men discuss the geography of Palestine. Moses, we are reminded, “marched the children of Israel around the Holy Land for 40 years, then brings them to the one place that has no oil.”

The three wise players fall about at this supreme lack of heavenly advance planning – and the audience follows suit.

Despite the critical caveats, this is a show to relish for its uninhibited humour and dynamic pace; and for the towering talents of the three players, Simon Jermond, Michael O'Connor and Christie Peter-Watson, and their director, Adam Long.

t The Complete Word of God (Abridged) continues until Saturday June 8. Box office: 01603 630000.

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