Pros: Raises some interesting questions, honest and personal, interactive.
Cons: Visually a bit plain, and lacked a certain pace.
In 2010 I walked from Warren Street station to a friend’s house for some drinks before a night out. On the way I noticed a building on the corner, Camden People’s Theatre, plastered with posters, one of which was for Let You Go (the then new single from Chase & Status). This song led to my discovery of a group whose music makes me feel enthused and alive; Mass aimed to do something similar, and may yet reach that objective, but not this time.
In a square black room, Amy Mason ambled onto stage to the backdrop of a philosophical discussion between Lindsay Lohan and Oprah Winfrey. Mason, with unkempt hair and everyday outfit, emanated a warmth and ease that invited the audience in and created a great environment for interaction, which didn’t stop there. We had already been asked to write down a prayer on a yellow post-it and hand it in, but each member of the audience being given their choice of drink – lager, cider or coke – was a rare and welcome touch. There also were food offerings being passed around and texts from the audience being read out. These techniques were brilliantly suited to a small venue and it was refreshing for a production to embrace its setting in this way.
Mason opened with remarks about the peculiarity of a nation where 63% of us do not believe in God but horoscopes and life-clarifying literature proliferate. Using the Roman Catholic mass as a template, Mason sets out to establish a more meaningful religious ceremony that draws from popular culture and day-to-day words of wisdom, ‘be kind’ etc. Running alongside this is an account of a bus, on which she was a passenger, running two people over. She was appalled by the abhorrent and indifferent behaviour that those around her exhibited, concluding that this is a symptom of our Godless society.
The play threw up some interesting ideas, like when one of the post-its had ‘I hope Alex is okay’ written on it. Also the notion of a taxi driver as a priest-figure – confined to his cab, listening to our problems with nothing to gain – gave me food for thought. Mason stripped back the noise that suffocates religion and peered into its essence. As the performance quickly reached its conclusion, and the famous section of Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness arrived (sampled by Jay-Z and Kanye West in ‘Otis’), Mason enthusiastically and emotionally threw out idea after idea of life-improving steps we can take. Yet finale aside, the play largely lacked any sense of urgency or change in pace. This was not helped by Mason’s humour, slow and dry, sometimes resulting in more forced chortles than genuine laughs.
At just 50 minutes, this production still managed to touch on several worthwhile subjects, but with religion as its centre, the broadest and most debated topic of all, novelty was crucial. And the problem was that it just wasn’t there yet. The crux of the play was religion’s failure to connect with the modern world and the ability of every individual to do good without religious guidelines. But this is not ground-breaking stuff – only today the Archbishop of Canterbury admitted his doubts about the existence of God. And don’t we all know that we should be good people anyway?
Although it was an engaging and interesting production (religious debate is never dull), its lacked a little originality in its content. Hopefully Mason will be able to develop this idea further to really bring it to fruition.
Author: Amy Mason
Director: Kirsty Housley
Booking Until: The show has now finished its run.
Box Office: 0207 419 4841