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HILARIOUS IRREVERENT STAB AT THE HYPOCRISY OF RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM

Print Version

DINNER WITH THE DEVIL
by Thomas Sainsbury

at The Basement, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
From 28 Nov 2012 to 1 Dec 2012

Reviewed by Nik Smythe, 29 Nov 2012


Thomas Sainsbury's latest is a typically atypical character-driven comedy which cavalierly explores religious / racial intolerance and exploits racial / religious stereotypes.  

Inspired by a European art exhibition featuring iconography from the world's seven major religions, the script involves a small community of diverse characters, each with their own agendas in accordance with the clichés associated with their respective beliefs. 

Sainsbury himself gives life to half the roles with trademark irreverence: Pandu the pain-addicted Indian Buddhist, Tezuko the Nippon Zen master, Reba the neurotic NY-Jewish single woman, and Mohammed the angry Arab Muslim. 

Jessica Joy Wood covers the rest of the neighbourhood with her distinctive portrayals of Annie the Texan born-again Christian, Hong the Chinese Taoist wastrel, Pandu's long suffering working wife Vani, and Ismo the atheist scientist – ironically the most morally driven humanitarian on the street.  (Apologies if I've got some of the names wrong). 

The central character of the story is Ismo, out door-knocking in search of a human subject to test his newly developed would-be cancer cure upon.  But the core rivalry is that between Annie and Mohammed, with their contradictory grandiose ambitions to transform the area for the betterment of their own kind. 

The extreme ends to which each person is prepared to – and indeed does – go to satisfy their own cavalier agendas rings true in a wider philosophical sense, albeit presented in a wholly absurdist manner.

Director Renee Lyons has instilled the hour-long black comedy with seamless fluidity, each scene-change achieved entirely through character shifts in lieu of lighting or SFX cues. 

The broad strokes, casual flippancy and outright hilarity of the performance belie the complexity of the narrative, not to mention the atrocious reality of judgmental hatred-fueled violence by religious hypocrites, rife throughout the world to this day.
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