Angels in Erotica

Mon 14th – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

Dan Mahoney

at 09:53 on 15th Aug 2017

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Did you ever read the Bible and think “this isn’t quite sexy enough”? Well if you did you’re a moral degenerate going straight down to the bad place, but before you descend do make sure to check out 'Angels in Erotica', a seriously funny ribald comedy about religion, fan fiction and men in tight pants. 'Angels in Erotica' sees an outrageously gay interpretation of God the Almighty deciding to reinvent himself for a new generation by ‘adopting’ aspiring erotic fan fiction author Rachel as the new Messiah. Using her questionable levels of authorial genius, she decides to use her new universal powers to craft ‘The Book of Rachel’, a New New Testament filled with hunky boys and bawdy antics.

The purest judge of whether a comedy succeeds has to be whether it made me laugh, and happily 'Angels' had me and the rest of the audience chortling from start to finish. The comedy comes in a variety of styles; with Rachel’s gleefully amateurish ‘origin story’ containing some excellent examples of brilliantly written bad writing. Some of the jabs at fan fiction culture and Twilight-esque love triangles can feel a little stale, but the gags are delivered with such relish by the cast and at such a pace that momentum is never lost for long. 'Angels' packs so many jokes into its running time that a few are always going to land short, with a couple of references to contemporary politics in particular feeling a bit awkwardly crowbarred in amongst the cheeky sex comedy and absurd religious quips.

But for every joke that doesn’t land there are many more that do, and even some of the weaker lines are elevated by the strength of performances across the board. Nick Denton is a particular highlight as Rachel’s absurdly Spanish, dream macho-man Edwardio, who swaggers around the stage reeling off feats of his bravery and bragging about his propensity for bear wrestling with obvious gusto. The dialogue-heavy script and relatively sparse staging means that delivery is key, but the production team have also got a good eye for a comedic prop and a killer song to enhance the laughs.

Trying to find deeper meaning in what is essentially Carry on Christianity is probably something of a fool’s errand, but the play makes at least a token attempt to tie all the madness together at the end with a surprisingly heartfelt speech from God about love. 'Angels in Erotica' isn’t quite perfect, but it’s funny, smutty and even leaves you with a nice little message at the end. Also at one point I got a bit of a lap dance from Edwardio, and to be honest what more can you really ask for from a play?

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John Livesey

at 10:22 on 15th Aug 2017

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Angels in Erotica clearly steals some of its marketing power from the National Theatre’s redoubtable summer hit Angels in America riffing not only on the title but also on its central concept: a queer cosmology. This new show written by Freddie Drewer may lack the same radical vision and politics of its namesake but it remains a witty, sharp and self-aware comedy all the same.

Running at theSpace at Surgeon’s Hall, the first image of this show is a single female figure seated at her desk. The bathetic comic mood of the piece is clear as soon as this, otherwise picturesque, silhouette starts swigging from a bottle of wine. Meet Rachel Davis, played with humour by Alex Hannant, a kooky, unself-conscious, female fan-fic writer, chosen by God to become the new messiah. Rewriting the bible like it were her own slash-fiction tumblr blog, Davis becomes a kind of post-Fifty-Shades Bruce Almighty: her story is an original take on the famous question ‘what would you do if you were God?’.

Establishing this central premise takes up the first 10 minutes of the piece with the help of a voiceover of God booming from the speakers - an imaginative device albeit one that feels slightly overused by the end. Given the lack of physical presence to start with, Dan Hodgkinson’s approximation of a hyper-camp deity is a particularly amusing feature of the play although one might argue that the character loses some their charm once Hodgkinson actually appears in the flesh. Of course, God is not alone, helped out in his exploits by his servants Cupid and Raol. Millie Bliar turns out the best performance of the show as the former, remaining cocksure and consistently funny throughout.

Drewer’s script is fast and irreverent. Lines put in God’s mouth such as ‘I’ve been stereotyped again’ are a good example of the kind of flippantly blasphemous humour that show is based around. There is even a self-awareness which predicts any claims of offensiveness that might be landed at the show. When Davis creates a hunky Spanish hero for herself, one who proceeds to lisp his long, and very stereotypical, name, she responds by exclaiming ‘Oh shit, I think I might be racist’.

Drewer’s cleverest conceit though and perhaps the most memorable moment of the whole show is not, in fact, part of the central action. In a short section early on we hear extracts of Davis' ludicrous and crude fan-fiction which are simultaneously played out on stage be it ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Twinks’ or ‘Lord of the Cock Rings’. This fast-moving and outrageous scene provoked genuine laughter from the audience.

However, while there is evidently much to praise in Angels in Erotica, it’s middle section feels somewhat stagnant and, as a result, the show never really maintains the level of humour it starts with. Davis' love triangle with her two suitors Edwardio and Moody Blues contains a few too many jokes that rely on tiresome repetition for effect. Moreover the romantic plotline seems a rather uninteresting direction for a show about a female God to go in. It is nice to see a woman in control with two men begging for approval but where the start of the play teases and shocks its audiences, always adding another startling image, this central plotline seems dry and lacks imagination

By the end of the production, Drewer attempts to transform the play into a humanist hymn about love, God himself admitting that where there is less pain, there is also less faith in his existence. It’s a touching end to the show and a neat conclusion which brings some welcome substance, though perhaps not enough to redeem the lack of ideas elsewhere. At the end of the play Hodgkinson asks us ‘Can I get an Amen?’ Though Angels in Erotica has a lot to praise, I might be tempted only to give him a ‘Maybe’.

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