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NotMoses review at Arts Theatre, London – ‘excruciating’

Jasmine Hyde and Niv Petel in NotMoses at Arts Theatre, London. Photo: Darren Bell Jasmine Hyde and Niv Petel in NotMoses at Arts Theatre, London. Photo: Darren Bell
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NotMoses is, to put it bluntly, not much of a play; it most closely resembles an adolescent rag revue. It tries – oh God, does it try – to riff on the Old Testament story of Moses, borrowing shamelessly from the template of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

Just as that 1970s comedy classic told the story of a young Jewish man, born on the same day and next door to Jesus Christ who grew up mistaken for the Messiah, this play has its lead character NotMoses also sent out into the world as a baby on a floating raft, then living his life in parallel with the real Moses.

The supposed religious satire is as flat and unvaried as the matzah bread that plays a key part in the show; it gives Moses such severe stomach cramps that he fails to rise, too, and has to send in NotMoses as his double to lead his people across the suddenly parted Red Sea. Yes, all the events in the story are there – including a plague of locusts which fall from the roof of the theatre into the stalls.

Filmmaker turned debutant playwright Gary Sinyor has little command of the rhythms that might make this work theatrically; so many scenes begin after delayed blackouts that there’s no sense of continuity. In fact, the whole production is performed on one level – that of shouty hysteria, while never becoming hysterically funny.

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"Let my people go," said Moses, and the audience might wish for a similar release during this excruciating comedy