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Holy Sh!t: Kiln Theatre

October 3, 2018

(seen at the evening performance on 25th September 2018).

Juliet and Simone met at Oxford University, and remain friends after 20 years. Now married with children, they are fighting for places at the only decent school in the area.

St Mary’s is a church school, and it’s “knees or fees” to get in and avoid paying for the private school alternative – 40 ticks in the church register built up each Sunday. Juliet finds her Christian faith “re-awakening.” So does Simone… except that Simone is Jewish.

Alexis Zegerman’s comedy drama is built on wonderfully observed characters. Each has depth and history, and even better, Zegerman isn’t afraid to “drop a bomb” whenever things are getting cosy. This happens pretty often, but for those expecting a left-wing polemic, this really isn’t it. Probably the most right-wing views I’ve heard in theatre for a long while, in fact.

Topics range from the central one of just wanting to “play the system” as everyone else does, forced to as the system doesn’t work; through where racism comes from and may be going, to simply fitting in and how a parent must sacrifice for a child’s future.

For the most part, it motors along pretty well. The off-stage children play pivotal roles, and there are some interesting avenues of morality and culture that beg for a sequel or at least an extra few minutes of exploration.

The second half (particularly the final scene), is far stronger than the first. The fact it makes sense of the whole preceding couple of hours redeems the entire play, making audiences forgive the odd longue.

Daon Broni (Nick Obasi) gives the performance of the evening, an impressive piece of technical acting requiring a mood to be held for a prolonged period before release in a delivery that stuns the audience into silence.

Wife Claire Goose (Juliet Obasi) is successful in being exactly the woman everybody knows. 40-something, highly educated but turning to mush due to childcare and existing on one income, body-clock ticking for a sibling. That she keeps her acting within reality even as the script spins is sound work.

Dorothea Myer-Bennett (Simone Kellerman) works through the peculiarities and contradictions required of her with some aplomb. Probably a candidate for the revival of “Starlight Express” (you have to have been there, in-joke) and more than scheming, yet keeping a degree of sympathy even as sharp intakes of breath are required.

Daniel Lapaine (Sam Green) gets the only false note in the production. Guess what? The author goes for a “middle aged white man who can’t grow up and has a light drug issue and isn’t keen on responsibility.” With that lazy stereotype, Lapaine manages to find a degree of humour and shows more humanity in a moment every parent dreads than the writer probably intended.

It isn’t perfect, thanks to this flawed character, and sometimes the scripting feels like the odd idea could be removed if it can’t be explored properly. Still, it’s highly original, the dialogue is mostly crisp and the acting pulls through any shortcomings.

Worth seeing, particularly if you can get a baby sitter for that 4 year old who needs a place at a good school – there’s ideas here this application season…


Four stars.

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