Martin Thomasson
Martin Thomasson
Seven Oaks Pub, Manchester

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Sacrament Credit: Shay Rowan
Sacrament Credit: Shay Rowan
Sacrament Credit: Shay Rowan

Julie Hall, sole performer in Sacrament, is also a GP practising in Greater Manchester. One wonders how many of the capacity audience at the Seven Oaks Pub have come along in the hope if they hang about after the show, they might get a free consultation. After all, these days GP appointments are as rare as the second coming. Speaking of which…

Supermarket worker Rosie (Julie Hall) is in no doubt as to the identity of her new customer. It is not just that his shopping consists of loaves and fish, but there is something, well, divine about him. Rosie speculates why he might have returned and whether, as male disciples made such a mess of things the first time around, he might consider recruiting women, specifically her, this time. Vowing to refrain from profanity is one thing, but Rosie finds it increasing hard to maintain a platonic relationship with the saviour.

Nothing in Martin Thomasson’s script could cause offence to Christians. Religion is not mocked, rather the humour comes from subverting expectations. Told her customer is sharing a house with a man named John, Rosie gasps, "John the Baptist?" only to get the dry response, "no, John the chef." There is even a tip of the hat to Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which brings the house down.

Rosie’s blind devotion to her new friend is not intended as a satire on religious faith, but rather a method of trying to heal a trauma in her past which may have left her vulnerable to exploitation. Thomasson is, however, sympathetic to Rosie, so while her beliefs may be part of a coping mechanism, they seem off-centre but never delusional.

Director Helen Parry is clear Rosie is making a sincere declaration of her beliefs and, later, full-on boasting of her sexual conquest. The tone is, therefore, a bawdy girls’ night out with Julie Hall addressing the audience as if they are her regular drinking buddies. There are, however, signs Rosie might be subject to depressive mood swings as her choice of drink goes from wine when happy, spirits when pensive to orange juice when repenting.

Julie Hall plays Rosie as a force of nature, entering through the audience with a gobby fishwife’s bawl in full strength. Hall’s blazing passion carries the audience into Julie’s perception of the world. The centrepiece of an excellent performance is a crowd-pleasing scene of Hall in scarlet woman persona, with some comedically graphic movements and eye-watering turns of phrase, making clear how her relationship with the messiah has developed. Hall also handles the more sober, reflective side of the character very well.

Sacrament is a highly entertaining introduction to a flawed but very human character.

Reviewer: David Cunningham

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