Friday, 26 April 2013

The Book of Mormon review: South Park creators' gentle mayhem in London

Here's my review of The Book of Mormon for the Morning Star Thursday 25th April 2013.

The Book of Mormon may not represent the much-heralded death of satire but, with full-page ads taken out in the show programme by lampooned subjects The Lion King and the Mormon church itself, this effervescent musical inches us ever closer to the abyss.

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are equal opportunity offenders, transferring their gleeful lack of respect for everyone and everything to Broadway and the west end with the help of co-writer Robert Lopez.

Race, gender, colour, creed and the do-gooding leftism they so despise: if you are an identifiable type, you will be done over by these libertarian scamps. Show them a sacred cow and they'll skewer it and serve it back to you with BBQ sauce.

These caveats in mind, if this is the sort of thing you like then you will like this thing very much. If not, look away now.

Odd-couple Elders Price and Cunningham (ace Broadway imports Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner) are paired up to save souls in Uganda as soon as their Salt Lake City training as "latter-day saints" is completed. They're assigned to a miserable village under threat from local warlord General Butt Fucking Naked (basso-profundo voiced Chris Jarman) whose mission is to subject all women to clitoridectomies.

Demolishing a slew of clichés straight out of the charity handbook, everyone has AIDS; one character shags babies; and the doctor is forever singing, "I have maggots in my scrotum" when the chorus isn't belting out, "Hasa Diga Eebowai" (Fuck You God).

The dispirited Mormon posse of clean-cut all-American fabulously repressed gays share the "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream", inhabited by Jeffrey Dahmer, Saddam Hussein, Genghis Khan and Johnnie Cochran: "I got O J free".

Elder Cunningham inadvertently twists Mormon history out of shape from its patently absurd mythical beginnings — shades of South Park's most excellent Scientology take-down with Tom Cruise "in the closet" — and finally wins over the villagers. They agree to be baptised after staging an outrageous parody of the show-within-a-show scene in The King and I, including a monstrously priapic Jesus.

Goal achieved, the Mormon proselytisers celebrate with a cheery rendition of "I Am Africa" hilariously satirising imperialist wet-dreams of the benevolent kind.

The all-singing all-dancing cast kick up a storm. More than half the actors are black, as is the leading lady love interest, the multi-talented Alexia Khadime.

Puerile, offensive and rude, The Book of Mormon acts as a welcome reboot of faculties numbed by moralising authoritarian edicts substituting for political solutions. What's not to like?

Prince of Wales Theatre, London W1
Runs until January 11th 2014

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