Review: Heaven Help Us (Gherkin Global)

rsz_heaven_help_us_sirmaiadscn8386Venue: Bordello Theatre (Potts Point NSW), Mar 12 – 29, 2014
Playwright: Keith Bosler
Director: Keith Bosler
Actors: Lyn Pierse, David Woodland, Orlena Steele-Prior, Emma Galliano, Tai Scrivener, Nick Radinoff
Image by Sirmai Arts Marketing

Theatre review
From Goethe’s Faust to Dudley Moore’s Bedazzled, the story about a man selling his soul to the devil is a motif that western cultures are more than familiar with. For many, the journey through life is nothing but a navigation between good and evil, so it is no wonder that another play has surfaced, in which a character explores those dichotomous choices.

Keith Bosler’s work is not an attempt to offer up something new to this discussion. In his writing and direction, Bosler is an exorcist, determined to get to a conclusion where irrefutable goodness exists, and it triumphs in the form of romantic love. The predictability of his plot and obviousness in his story are disappointing, but the earnest voice we hear is ultimately a comforting one. There is an innocent, almost childlike tone to the show, in spite of the overt portrayal of Satan and his aides as lustful, crude and so very naughty. Bosler’s approach keeps the devil and his nemesis completely segregated, so the concepts of good and bad are never allowed to become complex.

The highlight of the production are actors Lyn Pierse and David Woodland who seem to be able to “sing the phone book”. Pierse’s God is ironically and perversely, the only multidimensional character in the show. She is simultaneously kind and caustic, and is keen to play with frivolity at every opportunity while also effectively poignant when gravity is required. David Woodland plays the devil with a lot of flamboyance. His work is filled with tricks and techniques to prevent the character from ever becoming too plain. Woodland is a highly entertaining performer, even if our devil here is written with little originality. The rest of the cast struggles to match up to these two scene stealers, but in the second half, Nick Radinoff comes to life with surprising and funny consequences, showing off considerable comic ability.

Heaven Help Us retells a story that is too familiar. It however does include an unusual transgender character Michaela, who was formally known as the archangel Michael. After years of doing good, she had transformed into the female form. The joke is somewhat reversely sexist, but amusing nonetheless. Grey areas are by nature controversial, but they are also much more interesting. There is no requirement that all art is made for controversy, but it should strive for something that is at least a little out of the box. The butterfly leaves its cocoon to take flight; the angel should follow.