Theatre / Flying turkey

Missing Jesus

Arnolfini, Bristol

Q: When is a play not a play? A: When it's performance art. This premiere of a new show by Entwistle, whose previous work has included collaborations with the People Show, and her own Slipper Trips and Fine, treads an uneasy line between the two genres.

With music by Jocelyn Pook and design by Laura Hopkins and Jo Joelson, the stage seemed set for a "Live Art" theatre of sound and image, but there was more than a whiff of the old kitchen sink in what turned out to be a traditional, text-bound work. And as a text, it didn't, perhaps, really work at all.

On a stage-enclosure ankle-deep in feathers stand a shed, a mouldering old armchair and a table with an oven-ready turkey on it. It's a set that could double for a lost Arnold Wesker play set in a Norfolk Bernard Matthews factory, and even the four performers might be made to fit the social- realist frame. Though it's difficult to tell, they seem on one level to be a mother and her three daughters, bickering with each other on Christmas Eve. There are a few wrapped-up presents, lots of dialogue about faith or the lack of it, and a trying narrative tease about waiting for the man whose name is in the title. Of course, it isn't as simple as that: the shed also serves as a nesting-box, a confessional and a kind of Wendy house; the daughters are birds, too, though one of them is a carol singer who also seems to be a fairy on the top of the Christmas tree, or maybe an angel. Whatever you like, really.

Entwistle plays the mother figure, Unsaved, whose lack of faith is continually tested by her happy-clappy brood who can quote chapter and verse at the drop of an ecclesiastical hat (which also gets a look in later on). Taking off, a note in the programme suggests, from a doubling quote by William James (author of The Varieties of Religious Experience), offers on one level a serious enquiry into the psycho-pathology of faith, but - perhaps unfortunately - it's no Once a Catholic'. Though the dialogue and theatre-games (including an entertaining round of charades about the Bible) are occasionally witty, and Entwistle can write well, the play doesn't offer much in the way of visual metaphor for what it wishes to say, apart from a rather tired flying turkey.

Pook's involvement is barely apparent, bar an opening round of her customary baroque, angels-in-the-architecture, music (topped by the beautiful, floating voice of Melanie Pappenheim), and as the music is relayed on tape, with spontaneity reduced to someone pressing play and pause and turning the volume knob up and down, it doesn't have much effect. Though this was the opening game of the season, neither side - the play or the performance - seemed capable of scoring a goal.

Young Vic Studio, London SE1 (0171-928 6363) from 10 to 25 October.

Phil Johnson

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence