The Book Of Mormon is witty, silly, ironic and pushes the boundaries of good taste to the limit – all the things you’d expect from a production co-written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The duo responsible for South Park are not afraid to tackle subjects that many comedy writers would shy away from.
Female circumcision, AIDS and paedophilia are part of everyday life for the inhabitants of the Ugandan village where privileged white boy Elder Price (played by Robert Colvin) and his hapless companion Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson) have been sent to serve their ‘mission.’ The villagers live in fear of the militia, curse like troopers, and blame God for their dire situation. Converting the Ugandan people to Mormonism is a huge challenge, but Elder Price is sure he can succeed where other missionaries have failed.
Timing is everything in comedy, and in The Book of Mormon, it’s spot on. The pace of visual and verbal gags escalates as the show progresses. The second act includes a tale about doughnut theft that results in a vibrant visit to hell, and culminates in an uproariously funny village scene.
But among all the crudity and absurdity, there are tender moments. Aviva Tulley, as Nabulungi, delivers the touching Sal Tlay Ka Siti – a song about the most perfect place on earth (which is, apparently, Salt Lake City): “where flies don’t bite your eyeballs and human life has worth.”
This isn’t a play to take at face value; it’s packed with subtext – Parker and Stone have a knack for being indirectly controversial. Rather, The Book Of Mormon is open to interpretation: you can spend time examining the themes, or you could just enjoy the song and dance routines. The cast put on impeccable performances and are given a standing ovation during this performance in Cardiff Bay’s Wales Millenium Centre.
Is The Book Of Mormon offensive? Only if you fail to see the wider picture. This is a story of hope, friendship and humanity. It’s also a jolly romp that’s full of surprises. It’s not often you get to see Darth Vader, OJ Simpson’s infamous lawyer Johnnie Cochran, and Jesus Christ – who sounds remarkably like Eric Cartman – on the same stage.
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Wed 13 Oct
The Book Of Mormon runs until Sat 30 Oct. Tickets: £15.50-£94. Info: here
words LYNDA NASH
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