I didn’t know what to expect when I took my seat at Norwich Theatre to watch the well-loved musical The Book of Mormon. Don’t get me wrong, I had heard it was one of the more controversial musicals on the circuit. Yet, the hours that followed went above and beyond any expectations I had. It’s outrageously funny, regularly un-PC, and, best of all, an uplifting display of incredible talent.
The moment the curtains opened and the audience was greeted with an overly friendly “hello” from ten, slick-haired Mormons, I knew we were in for a treat. Presenting themselves as what one can only refer to as ‘white saviours’, the musical sees them travel to Africa. Here, they preach the word of God with their peers, in the hope that they can baptise, and eventually convert, people from a remote village in Uganda.
The audience follows two of the Mormons closely: Elder Price (played by Rob Colvin), who is the ‘perfect’ Mormon and his antithesis companion, Elder Arnold Cunningham (played by Conner Peirson). The casting for these personas, and all of the characters, was perfect. You completely believed that their clumsy and hilarious mistakes were genuine errors of judgement, done out of complete commitment to their faith. Their truly painful-to-watch interactions with the villagers and love/hate relationship with each other sold the plotline to myself and everyone around me, who were clearly just as engrossed.
Perhaps the most hilarious part of the Mormon’s plotline, and maybe the entire play, was whilst watching the group recount their ‘Hell Dreams’. Elder McKinley for example, whose raging homosexuality became a sub-plot throughout the duration of the musical, routinely slipped in jokes regarding his not-so-hidden sinful secret. This resulted in persistent laughter as he made sassy tuts in others faces and walked off stage swinging his hips (only to deny any homoerotic thoughts).
Nabulungi’s character provided an endearing calmness from the chaos of the Mormon group. Aviva Tulley, the actress who played Nabulungi, gave a hair-raising ballad performance, captivating us all with her combination of naivety and determination – not that she, or anyone for that matter, was spared from being involved with the rude jokes.
Written by the same people as the infamous South Park, you can easily see how The Book of Mormon is accused of being insensitive. It touches on pretty much every taboo topic under the sun; racism, sexuality, war etc. There were numerous moments where the audience was perhaps not quite sure how to react, but the extremity of the whole thing makes it so ridiculous that you can’t take it as anything other than a joke. Laughter constantly filled the auditorium, getting louder and louder as the jokes throughout the evening became more absurd.
I’ll admit, I’m not a regular theatre goer. I often would rather spend my (already over-stretched) student loan on tickets to see live music. However, The Book of Mormon was such a treat that I’ve already scoured the Norwich Theatre website to see what I fancy booking next. So, if like me, you’re not making the most of the incredible talent on offer at Norwich Theatre, I highly recommend you change that now, and – if you can – get yourself a ticket to see The Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon is running from the 28th January – 5th February at Norwich Theatre. Find tickets on Norwich Theatre’s website.