BWW REVIEW: Butel Is Heaven Sent In The Australian Premiere Of AN ACT OF GOD

BWW REVIEW: Butel Is Heaven Sent In The Australian Premiere Of AN ACT OF GOD

Tuesday 6th February 2018, 7:30pm, Eternity Playhouse

David Jeverbaum's hit play AN ACT OF GOD is a hilarious schooling by the Almighty himself on his view of mankind and the myths surrounding Christianity. Three-time Helpmann Award winner Mitchell Butel (God and Co-Director) is the perfect person for the Lord to inhabit and share his message, presented in a 75 minute talk show format.

BWW REVIEW: Butel Is Heaven Sent In The Australian Premiere Of AN ACT OF GOD
Mitchell Butel as GOD with Alan Flower and Laura Murphy as Archangels Michael and Gabriel (Photo: Phil Erbacher)

The premise of the night is that God has decided to utilise a mortal, Butel, to set the record straight on the extent of his power and the truth of what the world has based their beliefs on as well as his views on what the world has become. With this in mind he delivers an updated set of commandments to better reflect his intentions for his followers which he feels have misunderstood his original intentions and have often gone rouge. With adaptations made to Jeverbaum's text to better suit the Sydney audience, God is joined by archangels Gabriel (Laura Murphy) and Michael (Alan Flower) as he has delivers his frank and funny assessment from the comfort of a white leather sofa, complete with cloud pillows, perched partway up the stairway to heaven.

BWW REVIEW: Butel Is Heaven Sent In The Australian Premiere Of AN ACT OF GOD
Mitchell Butel as GOD (Photo: Phil Erbacher)

The historic Burton Street Tabernacle, which is now home to Eternity Playhouse, is a fitting setting for this work and Production Designer Charles Davis has artfully incorporated the apse of the former Baptist Church. A bright white staircase tapers up to an illuminated arched doorway/gateway to heaven. The stairway is broken by a circular platform which houses God's sofa and a smaller side platform from which Gabriel can consult the Gutenberg Bible and provide additional sound effects and administration. Davis has dressed God in flowing gold trimmed white robes from which bright red New Balance trainers and jeans often peak out from below. Beautifully detailed paper feathered wings adorn the Archangels' white dinner jackets with their overall attire befitting their personalities from the eternally good Gabriel with figure hugging elegance and stilettos and the somewhat rebellious Michael with a slightly dishevelled baggy pants and brogues.

BWW REVIEW: Butel Is Heaven Sent In The Australian Premiere Of AN ACT OF GOD
Laura Murphy as Archangel Gabriel (Photo: Phil Erbacher)

Butel co-directed this work with the Award Winning Richard Carroll and between the two this work is in perfect hands to ensure the comedy and the gravity of the work is felt. The ever adaptable Butel, fresh from presenting a heartbreaking Shlock in Bell Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, takes on the Supreme Being with a comfort and precision that makes this feel like it was written specifically for him. His comic timing and his ability to react to the audience is impeccable even as some of Javerbaum's jokes seem to fall flat when presented to an Australian audience, giving a wry acknowledgement whilst ensuring that the pace isn't allowed slow. Butel has a signature physicality which helps fuse this presentation as a blend of both the puppet and the puppet master as God is supposed be just borrowing Butel's body to pass on his message. Yes admittedly God is still being viewed as a male but at least with this he is now gay, extremely entertainingly camp and a damn sight sassier than the previous presentation of the scriptures would have the world believe him to be. He ensures that the audience sees the reality behind the myth of the Maker, reminding us God said that humanity was made in his image, and maybe his isn't really as nice as the faithful would want to believe when the extent of his powers are examined.

BWW REVIEW: Butel Is Heaven Sent In The Australian Premiere Of AN ACT OF GOD
Alan Flower as Archangel Michael (Photo: Phil Erbacher)

Alan Flower is delightful as the increasingly inquisitive Archangel Michael who initially serves as a conduit between the audience and the Almighty as he wonders around the audience taking 'questions' from the audience. Don't worry though as even if you are approached Michael shares in God's psychic power to know your question so you won't be put on the spot to voice your query. As Michael poses harder questions to God, Flower's presentation of the disenfranchised Archangel is beautiful as the audience gets to see that the Lord isn't as nice as he'd like us to believe.

BWW REVIEW: Butel Is Heaven Sent In The Australian Premiere Of AN ACT OF GOD
Mitchell Butel as GOD with Alan Flower and Laura Murphy as Archangels Michael and Gabriel (Photo: Phil Erbacher)

Conversely, Archangel Gabriel is God's favourite and Laura Murphy ensures that it is clear that Gabriel knows this and therefore conducts herself with a confident smugness as she sits at God's feet. Reading passages from the bible and providing additional props when required Gabriel is presented with a degree of sassiness as she concurs with God's judgements whilst Michael is going off the rails. It is noted that whilst the Broadway productions of AN ACT OF GOD have had both Archangels as men, Butel and Carroll have thankfully sought to try to right the balance with their casting of Murphy as Gabriel.

BWW REVIEW: Butel Is Heaven Sent In The Australian Premiere Of AN ACT OF GOD
Mitchell Butel as GOD (Photo: Phil Erbacher)

Regardless of your views on Christianity and God, AN ACT OF GOD is a funny and insightful look at religion and society's relationship to it. It carries important messages for society, particularly those that believe themselves to be God's devoted followers. Whilst the die-hard bible thumpers who are adamant they understand the God's intentions really should experience AN ACT OF GOD, they are potentially unlikely to accept that their unmoving misinterpretation of the Bible is wrong. For the faithful with a broader mind and anyone else that may have different beliefs, this puts Christianity and God's true intentions into better focus with some useful reminders on how to live and create a better society. Do not miss Mitchell Butel taking on the ultimate role as God.

AN ACT OF GOD

Eternity Playhouse

2-25 February 2018

http://www.darlinghursttheatre.com/whats-on/an-act-of-god

Photos: Phil Erbacher

Related Articles

View More Australia - Sydney
Stories   Shows

From This Author Jade Kops

Before you go...

Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter
Follow Us On Instagram