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Theatre Review: Keith? Or Moliere rewired @ Arcola Theatre


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Nothing is what it seems in Patrick Marmion’s new play “Keith? Or Moliere rewired” at the Arcola Theatre. The play takes the audience on a farcical journey highlighting the absurdity of today’s society.

With a storyline of con men and intrigue, the play takes us back to another era of theatre. Inspired by Moliere but with a feel of Restoration Comedy, the play is done with such an ease and relevance, that it leaves the modern audience roaring with laughter.

Image credit: Idil Sukan

The shapeshifting god, Dionysus, has come to earth to create mischief and have some fun playing with the life of humans. His chosen form is Keith (Joseph Millson), a South African New life-guru and ex-weapons dealer.

The victim for the god’s playtime is the rich business owner Morgan (Mark Jax) who, after the scare of a heart attack, has decided to change his life. And as a god-send miracle, right there in the hospital he meets Keith. Morgan’s family, daughter Roxy (Natalie Klamar) and ex-wife Veena (Sara Powell) are less than sure about Morgan’s new-found shaman, and decide to intervene - and so this crazy and fast paced comedy begins.

The design by Jemima Robinson is simple and elegant, with an almost bare stage done up with parquet wood flooring, and plants and lightbulbs in different sizes hanging from the ceiling, as a subtle reminder of the wealth of the family.

The ensemble is put together by a very strong cast. Aki Omoshaybi is wonderfully chilled and charming as Mo, Roxy’s new Muslim boyfriend. His performance creates a nice feeling of calm amidst all the farcical chaos.

Joseph Millson is nothing less than hilarious in the role as the shapeshifting god Dionysus, especially as the Serbian Hitman Zeljko. Dressed as if stepped out of the Matrix, his serious straight faced descend down the “Drainpipe”, makes the audience roar with laughter.

Mark Jax as Morgan is oblivious and innocent in his new found spirituality, and his interactions with his ex-wife and daughter and the juxtaposition between the characters are very well written, acted and directed.

Sara Powell as the powerful Veena has to be mentioned - though there are one or two too many menopause jokes, she delivers everything with a straight face and a sincerity that makes it all work.

Roxy (Nataly Klamar) the eccentric daughter, is on the surface totally ready to live a life with Mo, where love and God will provide for them, but in reality is deeply addicted to the luxury of her father’s money. These scenes are funny and have a very hectic energy, but at times working a little too hard to get the comedy across, which is not needed.

Lizzie Winkler plays the Brazilian cleaner Anna, and though her performance is very committed, this is the one character that feels superfluous. With a G-string pulled high up over her jeans, and very exacerbated movements, Anna, whether do to writing, acting or directing, becomes a recurring cheap joke that feels unnecessary in an otherwise very funny production.

This is a show that captures life in modern Britain, and how everyone, in spite of the Freedom of Speech, are holding their tongues, terrified of saying the wrong thing, sounding racist, misogynistic, too feministic, too anti-feministic, homophobic, transphobic and saying anything that might unintentionally insult someone in our newly sensitive society.

Director Oscar Pearce has created a great show of Patrick Marmion’s sassy play, that points a fun-making finger at everyone and everything from Me-too to Brexit. A very fun and politically incorrect laugh, which is ecactly what the doctor orders, in a time where you can’t say anything without stepping on someones toes.

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