Thundermaker Productions offered a new take on Oliver Lansley’s stellar play this week in a cut down, trendified rendition of Immaculate. Previously showcased as an unrelieved, two and a half hour effort and propelled downwards by an unnecessary Greek chorus line, the play has benefited from its rejuvenation. Immaculate is the first production from the young theatre company, who wanted to redefine the drama school favourite. In a collaboration with director Nick Reed, a one-time actor who has previously written for a number of popular television shows, they have managed to reproduce Lansley’s already modernistic play into a digestibly chicer version of its former self. The now 75 minute play has been a sell-out show all week and a reverberation of audience appreciation has followed.
Lawson’s screenplay presents a witty reflection on modern day attitudes of God, fallen angels and motherhood. Despite its tongue in cheek camouflage, the play confronts real and relevant questions about traditional beliefs of morality. Through everyday personage, such as a part-time dominatrix, an arrogant ex-boyfriend and a grown-up geek, ideals of perfection contrast the reality of what it is to be human and pose the question: how relevant is God in contemporary Western culture?
Housed at the understated White Bear Theatre Pub in Kennington, Immaculate is set in bunker-like boxed capacity. An inclusive, intimate air emits, right before a telephone rings to a retorting ‘f*ck off!‘ Mia (Jessica Doherty) addresses us as though we’re her new friends; although she is most definitely talking at us, rather than to us. Quickly establishing herself as a representative for the modern woman, she exclaims her desire for nice things and despise for hard work, all in a charming but somewhat lengthy monologue, featuring many ‘f*cks’. Providing a metaphorical microphone for scepticism, Mia aims to mirror a realistic retort to belief in a wholesome approach. Arc Angel Gabriel (Edward Law) takes milk, no sugar, in his tea. He tries to be nice, even polite, except he looks as though he’s just experienced rush hour on the Northern Line. Michael (Matthew J Staton) joins Mia and Gabriel for more tea, representing Mia’s arrogant, flashy, though secretly sensitive ex-boyfriend. He is here to stay, whether Mia wants him there or not. After more prolonged monologues and small talk between characters, which feature a few almost too long pauses, Lucifer (Barry Wilson) is a refreshing newcomer, bringing true comedy to the stage.
There is a feeling that the whole play is a small party, and that the audience are part of it (considered as extras). Despite the small stage space, at times it feels as though the actors are unaware of their positions, often having their backs turned to the audience or neglecting to take centre stage; as though a camera should be there to record a close-up. Mia comes into her own, after thoughtful questioning towards opposing spectrums of belief, duly reasserting herself among higher power and her demoralising ex. Regardless of its lengthy monologues and drawn out conversations, Immaculate is presented cleverly and comedically. The actors demonstrate a natural and instinctive adoption of their characters, making it easy to warm to them. Doherty’s embrace of Mia is excellent; she’s utterly absorbing, and exhibits a fantastic chemistry with the other actors. Wilson’s dramatically tearful monologue as Lucifer is hilariously original, making him an extremely endearing and charming presence on stage. Law reflects well as the resentful Gabriel, providing a purifying, though at times pompous, act to the play.
With sharp characters and a heavenly script (the outstanding difference between this play and Hollyoaks), the jovial black comedy showcases perplexing and thoughtful ideas that are addressed with a definitive British humour. It highlights poignant emotions in both the human and superhuman characters, serving to personify and perhaps diminish any notion of higher being. Gabriel and Lucifer, among the jealous, love-lorn, shameful mortals, also display imperfect, ‘human’ qualities: Lucifer parades a teary monologue on his misrepresentation as Satan and Gabriel flies into numerous rages, disabling his restraint as he is forced to comes to terms with his job role. Even God is personified in Gabriel’s continuous referral to him as a ‘person’. It’s really the angels’ inability to convince Mia that there’s any reason to go through with her pregnancy that establishes Lansley’s point. Reform may be the new sin but all babies sh*t the same.
Immaculate’s showing at the White Bear Theatre Pub is the first of four planned productions by Thundermaker over the next 12 months. Their first week is now finished but you can buy tickets for further showings at www.thundermaker.co.uk