All Saints – review

Our Rating:
4

In September 2010, Reverend Alex Brown was found to be performing illegal marriages at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Hastings. These marriages allowed illegal immigrants and asylum seekers to stay in England, while often uniting people without so much as a common language. This morally complex legal issue has caught the eye of the Furious Theatre Collective, who have staged a re-imagining of the true story at the fictional All Saints Church, Peckham.

The collective (Nicola Baldwin, Nicola Sanderson and Helen Sheals) came together to produce women’s theatre, including their 1992/2012 fringe production Confetti, written by Baldwin. She composed a skilful script for All Saints; it’s intelligent, witty and grounds some superb characters. The actors, director and designers have developed it into a fabulously funny production, building on great character work with subtlety and panache.

Vicar Stella begins her new term at floundering All Saints with only two volunteers: the conservative Marty (Nicola Sanderson) and flamboyant Trissia (Michelle Greenidge). When Trissia is revealed to have emigrated illegally from Sierra Leone, Stella resorts to drastic measures to save her from deportation, planning to marry her off to the handyman. Michelle Greenidge gives a flawless performance as Trissia, using humour and sentiment with nuance. She and Sanderson make a perfect team of supporting actors, the contrast between their characters causing many belly laughs. This opposition peaks as they perform hymns together, with Trissia mimicking Sister Act and Marty grumping reluctantly along the stave. The scene, enhanced by the excellent costume design, shakes the audience with tears of laughter.

The play features cameos from an angel (Jessica Kennedy) and the Devil (Peter Clements), which seem unnecessary until Stella’s mental instability is revealed. In the end however, they support the play’s moral dilemmas with humour, and show off Kennedy’s talent at multi-roling as both the Angel and Little Boy.

The whole play is somehow farcical, yet believable. Even when Stella twice finds herself on the church roof, or during Trissia’s ridiculous wedding, the solid performances anchor the story down. The ending, on the other hand, wraps everyone up so happily it seems artificial, especially in light of the trial that ended Reverend Brown’s real tale. The company claim they want to show the triumph of human spirit, but it does not often triumph in reality, particularly in the case of asylum seekers. Nevertheless, on this occasion, human spirit has at least triumphed in making good theatre.

The Last Refuge
Unit 9a,  133 Copeland Road (Copeland Industrial Park), Peckham Rye, London SE15 3SN
Box Office: 020 8127 6671
See Before 30th June 2013
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