Be Fruitful and Multiply

Sun 19th – Mon 27th August 2012

reviews

Lise McNally

at 21:08 on 19th Aug 2012

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‘Be Fruitful and Multiply’ refuses to take its place in the line of biblical rewrites. The genesis thing has been done in comedy before, and done well, but 1945 Productions have taken to the challenge with an innovative outlook and an energy which merits our attention. This fast-paced, feel-good romp ensures that if we are, conceptually speaking, on somewhat familiar ground, then we aren’t merely standing on it; we’re dancing.

It’s the dawn of time, and Al (Fred Ward) and business partner Sam (Adam Farrell) embark upon an exciting new venture- the creation of a planet curated by the newly designed human prototypes. Throw in their long suffering wives, timid employees, an increasingly co-dependant Adam and Eve, and Earth’s business model begins to look rather shaky.

The plot premise is solid, placing the comic imperative before the need to be clever, and the result is a piece which manages to be both. Without hammering the issues of religion, free-will or good and evil down our throats, the performance gives us a positive picnic of food for thought. Plus it’s funny; very funny. While the humour at times lacks a little sophistication (the “bite my banana” joke in particular plays out for a little too long) at other times it dazzles, drawing on familiar material and contemporary references, while placing it in a cosmic-wide context. The result is fresh and fun, witty and slightly wacky. St Peter (delightfully done by an adorably overwhelmed Martin McDowell) as the concierge of the Cross Keys Hotel was a particular highlight; a slick, stylish scene which was laugh out loud funny.

It is a true ensemble piece, with the efforts of the sterling cast and the wonderful on-stage band combining to maintain the high-energy tempo of the show. Harry Zundel, Ollie Feather and Ronan Shiels have composed a slick and punchy musical arrangement, and the actors produce a vocal performance to match. Christina Tedders (as Donna) deserves a particular mention for her truly wonderful vocal range. Her solo numbers were softly sweet and delicately performed, whereas in choral numbers she blazed forth with a remarkable power. Adam Farrell is also a treat, with a gorgeous, silky voice more than capable of playing the proverbial serpent - pure temptation in every note.

‘Be Fruitful’ is not flawless in its execution, but is somehow charming in its failures. The cast celebrate the imperfections of post-lapsarian man by celebrating it within themselves: they forgive the odd fluffed line, out of time dance, missed cue or lit scene change with a grin and a shrug, and the audience forgives them too. Indeed, a slight lack of gloss only adds to the impressiveness of the imaginative, musical and creative talent on display, by highlighting the youth and limited resources of this student-run production. This is a show which will give you a feet-tapping good time, even if it cannot give you polished perfection. But we are not perfect, and (as this gem of a show aptly demonstrates) we were not meant to be.

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Rivkah Brown

at 10:12 on 20th Aug 2012

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No points for guessing what ‘Be Fruitful and Multiply’ is about. Though the concept of a heaven’s-eye retelling of the history of the world strikes me as full of comic potential (if a bit trite), the execution is more ‘Horrible Histories’ than ‘Life of Brian’. It takes far too long for the sharper wit to bite, and when it does, it is intermittent and uneven. Generally, the humour relies too heavily on clichés, without introducing much new material or unexpected twists.

The play follows the rather vaguely-introduced ‘firm’, where CEOs Al and Sam are planning to build a planet, namely Earth. They populate it with human beings, which they are in the process of engineering along with co-workers Donna, Lucinda, Moe and Pete. The gag gradually unveils itself to us and the realisation dawns that each of the male characters has a biblical counterpart, Al as God, Sam as Satan, Moe as Moses and Pete as St. Peter. Though a snazzy concept, it leaves Donna (Christina Tedders) and Lucinda (Rose Wardlaw), the better halves of Al and Sam, feeling inessential, somewhat undermining the otherwise noble performances given by Tedders and Wardlaw.

Other than the odd slip-up, the script is tight, and the music is slickly professional, thanks largely to the fantastic live band. Energetic conductor Ronan Shiels gives the production a lightness that carries it swiftly through a potentially weighty hour and a half. The scriptural attempts at propping up the show, such as the subplots tracing the marriages of Al and Donna, Sam and Lucinda, strike me as largely ineffectual, a too conspicuous attempt at generating drama for drama’s sake. Though the attempt to domesticate the celestial is admirable, I feel that there isn’t anything dynamic enough about the relationships themselves to wrench them out of banality and make them worthy of heaven.

The musical numbers are energetic, though the lyrics are often predictable. Such criticism might seem inevitable with the subject matter, though I felt they could have pushed the boat out a bit more with something more risqué. Al calling Pete ‘such a saint’ wobbles between tongue-in-cheek and simply a bad pun, whilst Addy and Eva (again, no points for this one) admiring Addy’s ‘third leg’ is marginally too cheap to be funny.

There is no denying the feel-good quality of this show; I left the auditorium with an almost maniacally broad smile on my face. The cause of such unbounded joy was the unexpected star of the show, Martin McDowell (Pete), whose witty, faintly snide remarks are distinctly unsaintly. If I were fighting fire with fire, I might say he was the show’s saving grace.

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