The God Particle

Thu 15th – Sun 25th August 2013

reviews

Victoria Ferguson

at 09:14 on 22nd Aug 2013

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“Okay, let’s begin.” With a mechanical offstage voice breaking out into what sounds like a physics lecture, this funny and original exploration of the relationship between science and religion gets underway.

The recording eventually dies down and the lights come up on Rebecca Kenworthy, a doctor of quantum physics, who is engaged in a heated phone conversation with her mother after having been stood up by a lab technician: “Yes Mum. I’m in a bar. By myself.” Cue tall, handsome stranger. Ah, he’s wearing a dog collar. But don’t worry, he’s an Anglican! And so begins a lesson on the importance of keeping an open mind as we follow the development of the unlikely romance between Gilbert and Bex.

The humour is light and uncomplicated, but just what you would want from a romantic comedy sci-fi. Well, I imagine so at least; I can’t say that I have many of those lying around in my DVD cupboard. It’s ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ meets ‘The Big Bang Theory’; a healthy mix of wordplay (said the physicist to the vicar, “you’re a vicar, you should understand mass”) and amusingly complicated technical terms that had all the scientists in the audience chortling appreciatively. Yes, congratulations you lot on knowing your theories of quantum physics.

The two actors carry the show confidently, giving a performance that is sharp and well-rehearsed. Ruben Crow is charming as the vicar and Abby Guinness is self-assured and animated, if not a little over-the-top at times. But I suppose this isn’t supposed to be realism, they travel back in time for goodness’ sake. The main issue that I had with Guinness’ performance I don’t feel entitled to hold against her. I found her character unbearably sarcastic, but this becomes a running joke between the reverend and the doctor, so this annoying trait becomes completely intentional. Oh, those clever writers covering their tracks!

The religion versus science debate runs throughout the play, but it doesn’t develop into anything like a provocative philosophical debate. While the points raised by the characters are interesting, they are not particularly ground-breaking or profound. Ultimately, this is a romantic comedy. The jokes are nice and cheesy, the sexual tension is rife and the quintessential almost-kiss-that-is-interrupted-at-the-last-moment would make Hugh Grant proud.

James Cary has worked on BBC1’s ‘Miranda’ as well as other popular comedy shows, and he proves with ‘The God Particle’ that his command of British humour has made its way to the Edinburgh Fringe intact. I would definitely recommend this play for anyone seeking a good laugh and that warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

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Kayte Williams

at 09:28 on 22nd Aug 2013

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'The God Particle' is best described as a romantic comedy cum theological debate cum science fiction adventure. It's a lot to pack into a one hour two-person show, but the unusual combination makes for an inventive and exciting plot. The jokes, from a co-writer of BBC's 'Miranda', are very funny – the Reverend Doctor has to clarify that he isn't a doctor for vicars only, for instance. The acting is quite well done, and occasionally moving, but, for various reasons, there's a glum atmosphere that spoils what the comedy could be.

While I'm picking out flaws, I found the science fiction elements of the show silly, or even scoff-worthy. First of all, there is unexplained time travel, but there's also a talking donkey and exploding surveillance vans, not played for laughs but presumably meant to be spooky. I would also like to know why there's an Institute of Quantum Mechanics in a small village called Threepigs. But the two romantic protagonists are interesting and endearing characters: one is an open-minded member of the clergy, while the other a close-minded theoretical physicist. They have intelligent, occasionally heated, arguments propounding their own point of view, provoking the audience to consider whether there are really any good reasons to justify their own beliefs.

The romance between Gilbert and Bex is pretty convincing and even charming. However, longer portions of uninterrupted dialogue become a little like watching a game of catch; the lines go back and forth, back and forth... This might be because the direction is sometimes slightly corny, for example, waving the arms around wildly to express surprise. This is great in funny moments but amateurish in serious ones. I wish there had been even more focus on humour, because, when the show was funny, it was genuinely hilarious.

I don't understand, however, the bizarre decision to create a dour atmosphere through dull costumes, cold lighting, intimidating religious music, and a pitch black set in a dark room. The show was really popular, sold out in fact, but the serious atmosphere did the actors and writing an injustice in my opinion, by depressing the laughs. At any rate, the original characters made the show interesting as well as funny – Rev. Gilbert has a PhD. and a clever sense of humour, while Bex is very confident in her intelligence but intimidated by her ditzy younger sister.

Whilst I loved the inventive characters, the witty jokes and the intelligent science/religion debate, I was disappointed by the gloomy atmosphere and the silly science fiction plot points. All in all, a messy love affair between science, religion and time travel.

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