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The Theatreguide.London Review

Notmoses
Arts Theatre  Spring 2016

Openly inspired by Monty Python's Life Of Brian, writer-director Gary Sinyor dips a little further back in the Bible for the comic story of the Hebrew baby Pharaoh's daughter threw back into the Nile when a more attractive one came floating by. 

The baby she chose grows up to be Moses, an Egyptian prince with a talent for accounting and a tendency to kvetch, while Notmoses becomes an agnostic and bolshie slave. 

The guys meet, Moses discovers his real identity, and they join forces, Notmoses doing most of the actual work of the Exodus while Moses handles the visions and talking-with-God bits. 

And that is pretty much the extent of Gary Sinyor's comic inspiration. 

This show has the feel of an undergraduate revue, and suffers from a failing all too common among such revues. It turns out to be fairly easy to come up with the concept for a comic sketch or scene ('Wouldn't it be funny if. . . ?') but a lot harder to find actual funny stuff to put in the scene. 

Sequence after sequence of Notmoses starts promisingly (Suppose Moses doesn't hear the burning bush and it has to shout. Suppose he's not at the Red Sea for some reason and a girl has to put on a fake beard and cover for him.) and then just peters out as the playwright can't find anything comic to do with the premise. 

And the fact that he occasionally comes up with an actual joke ('Is this beef?' - 'No. Is lamb') or running gag (Inspired by his chat with the burning bush, Moses goes around for a while declaring random Commandments like 'Thou shalt not eat owls'.) only makes us more aware when such pay-offs don't appear in most other scenes. 

By the time we get to the actual Exodus, writer Sinyor has pretty much given up, and I don't recall there being a single actual joke in the entire second act.

As writer Gary Sinyor is particularly poor at finding punchlines, and scene after scene just limps to a weak non-ending, the actors saved only by a blackout a failing that director Sinyor, with little evident sense of comic pacing or comic energy, can't find any ways to cover, so that the actors look unhappily stranded onstage far too often. 

This pattern, along with some actor uncertainty about cues and the fact that the show runs about twenty minutes shorter than announced in the programme, suggests a lot of last-minute cutting and tinkering with the script, and things might get a little easier for the hard-working actors as the run progresses. 

Greg Barnett and Thomas Nelstrop don't distinguish sufficiently between Notmoses and Moses (the latter imagined as a little, but not enough dimmer), and the rest of the actors too often seem unsure why they're in a particular scene at all. 

A promising comic premise unexploited, an occasional passing chuckle, and far too much of a sense of all the jokes that are missing rather than of the few that are there Notmoses is defined more by its disappointments than its few achievements.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Notmoses - Arts  Theatre 2016 


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