Saturday, November 26

The Day They Kidnapped The Pope – Rainhill Village Hall

Rainhill Garrick Society start their 80th birthday celebrations with a bang with this startling and surreal comedy whose improbable events become all too believable through the magic of the theatre. Written in 1979 by Joao Bethencourt, a celebrated Hungarian actor, playwright and director, it was well received throughout Europe including a rave review when presented in Rome.

On a visit to New York, the Pope (Rick Young) mistakenly gets into a taxi and is immediately kidnapped by its driver, Samuel Leibowitz (George Lowe) who takes him to his Brooklyn home much to the surprise of his wife Sara (Tracey Duffy) and daughters Esther (Sophie Brogan) and Miriam (Lucy Whitfield). As events outside unfold through TV media (Angela Vose; Tom Nevitt), the demands of the ransom become clear: a day of world peace when there will be no killing in the world. Can the impossible become possible or will the interference of a gabby Rabbi (David Parker), a prissy Cardinal (Michael Brennan) and a shotgun Sheriff (Gerald Walker) bring heavenly ideals crashing back down to earth?

This is a brilliantly observed play whose characters are larger than life yet believable all the same with constantly funny dialogue, and its an absolute treat to see it being brought to life in the capable hands of director Rosetta Parker and this sterling cast who were supported by an equally talented ensemble including Tim Evans, Alison Mawdsley, Edi Tinsley, Jo Webster, and Rob Williams.

Whilst it’s a comedy, it is a play that sadly remains as relevant today as it did over forty years ago, with a poignant back story that propels the actions and behaviour of Samuel from the off and which is matched by an equally poignant ending that is well handled by this excellent company.

The staging and set design from Richard Parker and Graham Swift provides the perfect Brooklyn apartment from where all the action is staged bar some later and very necessary forays through the minefield of an audience with well-choreographed sound effects from Ian Schofield. The clever positioning of TV announcer and (unseen) television either side of the stage gives the framing for strong performances to come to the fore.

There are a lot of accents at play and on the whole the cast maintained them well, with some clearly portraying roles they were destined for, in particular Young’s omnipotent Pope, Parker’s expressive Rabbi, and Brennan’s charismatic Cardinal. Vose and Nevitt embodied the best (or should that be worst) of American TV presenters whilst Walker and Williams skitted perfectly.

Standouts were Lowe’s Samuel who reflected mania, wit, helpless pathos, and a driven determination, whilst Duffy delivered an exceptional performance as Sara, capturing every idiosyncrasy of the Jewish mother to a tee.

The Day They Kidnapped The Pope performs for one more night at Rainhill Village Hall on 15th October at 7.30pm; judging by tonight’s more than full house, I’d recommend getting there early.

Celebrating 80 years of entertaining, it was great to see a mix of accomplished and newer members performing tonight. Rainhill Garrick Society are always on the lookout for new members to get involved in many roles, so whether you want to explore set building/dressing or try prompting, or are interested in acting or play readings then why not come along and get involved? Further details

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 14th October 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★