Tag Archives: Giles Terera

Flooded with Meaning


Duke of York’s Theatre, London, Saturday 13th July, 2019


Duncan Macmillan’s new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s 1886 play is flooded with pertinence.  Never mind nineteenth century Norway, many of the lines come across as direct commentary on the state of our nation today, eliciting wry laughter from the audience.  Ibsen-Macmillan make satirical quips, mainly through the mouthpiece of Kroll, a conservative, while sending up that character too.  The public, we are told, vote for feelings not for facts – which accounts for the current mess we’re mired in.

As with all Ibsen, it’s the characters’ personal problems that bring about their downfall.  Dark events in their past always surface and take their toll.  In this one, it’s a year since the suicide (by drowning) of John Rosmer’s wife.  Rae Smith’s elegant, stately set bears the marks of flood damage caused by her body clogging the watermill, the stains as much as a spectre as the memory of the act itself.  Proceedings are beautifully lit by Neil Austin, with daylight starkly streaming through the windows, and lamplight dimly glowing on the murky ancestral portraits that glare down on events.

Tom Burke strikes a plaintive note as widower John Rosmer.  Having lost his faith, he is torn between opposing factions in the upcoming general election, both of which see his pastorhood (if that’s a word) as a vindication of their stance… Burke shows strength in his grief, even if his Hamlet-like indecisiveness causes him to waiver and dither.  Rosmer is clearly in the thrall of his late wife’s best mate and erstwhile nurse, Rebecca West, a thoroughly modern young woman, clawing her way up from nothing and asserting both her independence and her will.  As Rebecca, Hayley Atwell is a Marvel (pun intended).  The former Agent Carter from the Captain America films gives a sparky performance – we like her immediately, and when the Truth comes to light, and she makes impassioned defences of her questionable actions, we admire her, even if we don’t agree with her.  It’s easy to see how Rosmer is enchanted.

Giles Terera is nothing short of superb as sardonic Governor Kroll.  Assured to the point of smarminess, he makes witty observations that mask his ruthlessness and objectionable politics.  There is sterling support from Lucy Briers as housekeeper Mrs Helseth, and Peter Wight puts in a memorable turn as bedraggled radical Ulrik Brendel, more like a homeless Michael Foot than a Jeremy Corbyn.  Finally, Jake Fairdbrother’s tabloid newspaper editor Peter Mortensgaard makes a brief but effective appearance.  The play has no love for newspaper owners nor those who believe what they read in the papers – again, the prescience of the piece is uncanny.  Or perhaps it’s just dismaying to note that society has not moved on in a century, people have not improved – and it’s the same the whole world over.

A stunning production with more laughs than you might expect, culminating in personal tragedy, the net having tightened around the characters until they feel they have no other option.  The final moment is brilliantly realised.  Perhaps director Ian Rickson is also addressing global issues here.  Unless we radically change our ways, we will very soon find ourselves in deep water.


Hayley Atwell and Tom Burke (Photo: Johan Persson)


Respect Your Elders


Prince of Wales Theatre, Saturday 2nd November, 2013

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of anarchic animation South Park, have struck another rich vein of subversive humour in this hit musical about missionary work in Africa.  Young Mormon Elders, Price and Cunningham are sent to Uganda for two years to convert the locals.  It’s hardly Price’s first choice – he’d prefer Orlando, Florida – while Cunningham is just happy to be by Price’s side.  Their arrival quickly shows them that Africa is misrepresented by The Lion King, and a village of truculent natives is the least of their problems.  Along the way, Price’s faith is sorely tested, and annoying twerp Cunningham is given the opportunity to ‘man up’.

Despite its hilarious and controversial subject matter (debunking religion, addressing female genital mutilation…) as a musical, the show is very conventional.  The songs are tuneful and the lyrics are witty in a foul-mouthed Disney kind of way.  There is much of the spoof and the pastiche but its delights come from content rather than the form.

Gavin Creel is just about perfect as enthusiastic, egotistic, conceited Elder Price who learns a (very) painful lesson.  His voice is powerful and clear.  When he belts out ‘I believe’ it’s like a clarion call.  Jared Gertner is excellent as Elder Cunningham; insufferable, suffocating, and creepy at first, the elder gains courage in his convictions – albeit with some interpolations from George Lucas and Tolkien thrown in along the way.  Alexia Khadime’s Nabalungi is the heart of the story, longing for a better life; her song about Salt Lake City reminds me of Somewhere That’s Green from Little Shop of Horrors.

There is a chorus of happy, preppy Mormon boys, repressing their negative feelings, and there is a chorus of spirited Ugandans – their re-enactment of the founding of the Mormon religion is a highlight of cross-cultural mash-up, like an explicit and foul-mouthed Uncle Tom’s Cabin from The King & I.  In fact, there are many overt and covert references to other shows and popular culture throughout the evening.

There is strong support from Giles Terera as Mafala Hatimbi, Stephen Ashfield as Elder McKinley, and there is outrageous menace from Chris Jarman as local despot The General.

Good-natured, mocking and irreverent, The Book of Mormon is uplifting and energising.  Think Avenue Q meets Jerry Springer the Opera. There is a message of living well and being kind, without the made-up stories you might find in a book or even a trilogy of science fiction films.


Act of worship: Jared Gestner idolises Gavin Creel.