Sure, there is some humour in the Bible, but this extraordinary piece of theatre turns it into a very funny, whilst irreverent but respectful romp! Who, other than the creative genius of the unpredictable UK theatre company, Stan’s Cafe, could imagine three Cardinals and a Muslim woman presenting a potted version of the entire Bible as a wordless puppet show?
Depending on your background and upbringing, you will immediately recognise the stories being portrayed, or not. If you don’t know them you could be forgiven for feeling totally bamboozled by the presentation, if not by the antics of this very accomplished troupe.
Birmingham based Stan’s Cafe (pronounced “caff”) was founded in 1991 and has been producing innovative, experimental and ingenious theatre ever since, and has toured widely; in this instance with actors Gerard Bell, Roochie Rampal, Graeme Rose and Craig Stephens, directed by the Company’s founder, James Yarker.
Apart from the very clever wordless presentation of some of the well-known Bible stories, one can’t help but be amazed at the complexity of the equipment and props, backdrops, changes of costume, and co-ordination (mostly) of musical excerpts that accompany them, not to mention the business of touring with it all.
[pull_left]Who could imagine three Cardinals and a Muslim woman presenting a potted version of the entire Bible as a wordless puppet show?[/pull_left]
Apart from a fruitless search by one Cardinal, ending in a scream of panic that starts the proceedings, there is no firm indication that the puppets have been lost, and that therefore the human parts of the story are going to have to be played by the Cardinals themselves in their evangelistic mission.
The result is some nice contrast between the frantic and frenetic off stage chaos and the poised and pious, depiction of Biblical scenes, some cleverly verging on the Monty Python-esque, such as the depiction of the walking on the water and the Ascension.
The condensed version of the Bible starts with Genesis and the Creation, Adam and Eve, the Fall, and their expulsion from Eden with a wave of “God’s” hand from above, through the Flood, Abraham and Isaac, the Exodus, parting the Red Sea (and Pharaoh’s army in the form of a tank, being sunk), the ten commandments, the fall of Jericho, David and Goliath. After the Annunciation and Nativity with wise men and shepherds, and the slaughter of the innocents, and the last Supper and Crucifixion came more backstage chaos as the Muslim stage manager had other things on her mind.
This heralds the continuation of Judeo-Christian history into an interpretation of the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, with the fall of Jerusalem, crusades, wars, suicide bombers, and violence, all poignantly pitched against the Kyrie from Mozart’s Requiem, and the return of that Tree from the Garden of Eden.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and it’s not funny any more. After chuckling at the earlier parts, an appreciative audience left with serious matters to ponder, among which is the power of theatre that this production demonstrates.