There’s a painting by African-American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner of the moment Mary is told by archangel Gabriel that she is pregnant with the son of God.
Unlike most religious depictions of the annunciation there are no halos, no beaming radiance, just an ordinary, slightly confused young woman, forced into a situation she has little control over.
Oliver Lansley’s Immaculate takes much the same approach, only with a lot more humour, and an infinite amount more swearing.
This extremely irreverent take on the second coming is enormously enjoyable, both for its sharp script and some spot-on performances.
Loretta Askew takes the role of Mia, a 25-year old single woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, and visited by God’s messenger (Will Harragan).
These two provide a fantastic backbone to the performance, with Askew a convincingly vulnerable yet steely young woman, full of intelligence, complexity, and quite a few choice phrases. She frequently addresses the audience directly – no easy task in the intimacy of the Sewell Barn auditorium – and wins through every time.
Harragan is a deliciously oddball Gabriel, with great timing and a brilliantly expressive face. He feels instantly relaxed in the role, even when his character is slightly at sea.
Sean Bennett is a much maligned Lucifer, switching neatly between devilish bombast and sympathy-inducing self-regard.
Rebeka Igneczi channels her very best Vicky Pollard with some breathless monologues as Mia’s best friend, and ex-boyfriend Michael (Richard Vojvoda) is a good straight-man for some argumentative set pieces.
The on-stage cast is rounded off by the enjoyably over the top Julian Newton, as everyone’s least favourite blast from the past schoolmate Gary, replete with flashy shades and an estate agent’s self-confidence.
Sabrina Poole’s direction brings the whole thing together in a fast-flowing, fourth-wall breaking production that delivers cheap laughs and deeper truths with equal panache.
- Immaculate continues at Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich until December 2 2023.