There were a few horrified faces when The Book Of Mormon dropped its first C-bomb 30 minutes into the show, but, looking around, most of what I saw were people looking at each other gleefully, much like my pre-teen friends and I when Mr Tweedy shouted “you thieving little buggers” after the fleeing poultry in Chicken Run. Lots of them were older people too (after all, what young’uns can afford the theatre nowadays except on very special occasions?) To my right sat a snickering teenager who half an hour earlier had been berating his father for making him late for a house party. My theatre buddy for the day, one of the most outrageous and least shockable people I know, was sat on my other side, hands clasped over his face, eyes bulging in disbelief and delight.
In a world in which most people live in secret fear of falling on the wrong side of political correctness, the Prince of Wales Theatre hangs in a sort of vacuum in which it can make jokes, nay, sing extravagant ditties about, serious issues such as religion, AIDS, FGM and other, even more unsavoury, topics. (South Park fans will quite clearly hear the voices of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who wrote the show, throughout.) It’s quite remarkable, because not only was the show full of quite grown-up looking people who all appeared to be enjoying themselves, but also on the receiving end of a veritable tsunami of critical acclaim, lauded by pretty much everyone and their mother. Even the Church of Latter Day Saints saw the funny side, and, despite being the butt of the joke, took out ad space in the programme.
To be fair, it’d take a 24-carat sourpuss to miss the humour; I damn near gave myself a hernia laughing so much.
But the show isn’t just two hours of cussin’ for cussin’s sake; it has something serious to say about the nature of religion too, albeit amidst a playlist of exuberantly offensive songs performed by a cast of well-meaning but bumbling Mormons and an embarrassingly stereotypical village of Ugandan villagers. Described by Stone and Parker as “an atheist’s love letter to religion”, the overall message is that although religion may be far-fetched, ludicrous and hypocritical, on a fundamental level it is capable of doing some good.
I won’t give too much of the story away, but the score, as you’d expect, is catchy and crude (“Fuck you, God, in the ass, mouth and c*nt,” sing a chorus of Ugandans up to their necks in dictatorships and HIV). They come complete with elaborate and flamboyant dance sequences from the Mormons, who were all fabulously, magnificently, unapologetically camp. I really, really hope that the cast are all friends are go out together sometimes, because the sight of that lot tearing up Heaven at 3am must be a sight to behold. The lead in particular, one Elder Price, was a beautiful, beautiful man. Frankly, if all Mormons looked like him, I’d be on those doorbells like a rat on a Wotsit. Sign me up.
Full disclosure: the Book of Mormon is one of the West End’s best-selling musicals, but I’m featuring it because it is, in my opinion, one of the best, and I’ve seen almost all of the long-running shows. (Other top contenders include Matilda and The Phantom of the Opera). This post was facilitated by Boxoffice.co.uk, which offers great deals on all kinds of theatre tickets. As part of a collaboration they allowed me to choose a show to review (and I picked this one! Even though I’d seen it already in previews…it’s just that good.)
The Book of Mormon is playing at the Prince of Wales Theatre. You can find tickets from Boxoffice.co.uk here (the theatre is quite small so pretty much all seats have a decent view. My advice would be to take seats in the circle before taking ones at the back of the stalls.)
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.