The Messiah at Chichester Festival Theatre REVIEW: ‘For a night of silly humour this is the place to be’

Don’t let the name fool you – it’s not a stage production of the Passion of the Christ.

It is in fact a revival of a 1983 play, directed by its creator Patrick Barlow, which sees two simpletons attempt to stage The Nativity story with the help of an opera singer and some cardboard scenery.
Imagine that Christmas special of the Vicar of Dibley where they stage The Nativity on a farm crossed with The Play That Goes Wrong and you’re not far off.
Sandwiched between Hugh Dennis and acclaimed soprano Lesley Garrett in her first-ever play, the less famous John Marquez had more to prove.
But within minutes he stole the show with his portrayal of the loyal but simple Ronald Bream, brow-beaten by Dennis’s pompous Maurice Rose.
He played a multitude of characters in the play-within-a-play, including the midwife who delivered Christ – an often-overlooked figure in the biblical canon, who was uncannily similar to a certain BBC programme’s protagonist.
My favourite though was his interpretation of the Virgin Mary, complete with a silly headscarf that didn’t fail to make me laugh.
Garrett’s songs had apparently been beefed up in this production – but she is still very much a featured performer rather than a main player.
Speaking of smaller roles, I must give a shout out to my friend George, who put his drama degree to good use at last in an audience participation segment which recreated the Roman census.
He was much more professional than one of the other audience members, who refused to read out his line. I think this man was muddling his festive stories – Scrooge wasn’t at Jesus’s birth.
For a night of silly humour, sprinkled with the odd aria and some festive cheer, this is the place to be.
Until Saturday, November 17.