A comedian, actor and an opera singer…it sounds like the start to some random 90s joke, but writer and director Patrick Barlow has pulled out a Christmas cracker with this trio in The Messiah.

Maurice (Hugh Dennis) and Ronald (John Marquez) open the show in comic fashion and make a delightful duo in this funny retelling of the biblical story. We are introduced to the characters as actors in Maurice’s tiny theatre company allowing them to then perform a repertoire of roles with ease.

It would be easy to say the performances were fun and frivolous (which they were), but that would be to miss the point and perhaps the magic of this show – which was very much down to the brilliant acting and miming ability of Dennis and Marquez persuading the audience to see what actually wasn’t there. It’s a neat trick for audience engagement and a clever way to build a vision.

Lesley Garrett’s role of Mrs F, is perhaps less clear in this production – although her comedy opera was divine and left you wanting more – even if it didn’t quite fit! Her unamplified voice undulating across the stage is gorgeous to behold, and after every song commanded a much appreciated round of applause for her presence.

Perhaps what surprised me the most, was that despite being a huge fan of Hugh Dennis, I would say Marquez is the star of the show. As the camp sidekick, his comic timing and ability to play so many characters had me giggling at nearly every gag.

But, and this is a small but, it does play it a bit safe when it comes to the jokes. While not billed for all the family, despite one F-bomb, this feels like you could take the kids to enjoy the gags on all levels. And perhaps, that’s the slight drawback with this production – it isn’t quite as out-there and roar-out-laugh-funny as what it could be, and probably should be. As a bit of fun though, and as an adult nativity, this delivers - and joyfully. It’s silly, frivolous and smiley and makes a great alternative Christmas play.

Reviewer: Samantha Collett

Reviewed: 12th December 2018

North West End Rating: ★★★★