Brick Fox Theatre, made up of students and alumni from Royal Holloway, University of London, took Holy Sh*t to the Edinburgh Fringe last year, where it was a sell-out success. For a debut of this particular play, there could have hardly been a more appropriate city; the stomping ground of the original ‘cash for bodies’ crooks, Burke and Hare. While these villains actually murdered their victims, the bodysnatchers in Holy Sh*t are working priests trying to save their crumbling church.
Holy Sh*t ‘digs up’ various questions centred round morality, belief and motivation. Fathers George Hobbs and Charlie Moss in their own respective ways are essentially good, well-meaning people in a difficult situation. The distinct theologies of the two priests are explored, offering different perspectives on faith and other matters. This certainly chimes with the reality of the church in general, with so many issues (such as gay marriage or women priests) still unresolved . There is a cynical realism to Holy Sh*t behind the comedy.
Holy Sh*t has a cast of seven, allowing plenty of characters to appear in the story. All are well drawn and contrast well with each other well, although it does seem a little strange that the investigating policewoman has a strong American accent. The story is well plotted, moving steadily to a dramatic climax as the priests find a number of unintended consequences arising from their initial foray into the dead-body market.
There are many funny moments, including certain sequences which are reminiscent of Monty Python (think of the haggling scene in The Life Of Brian). Other aspects of the plot are quite simply surreal: a priest who has a sexual crush on Angela Merkel, for heaven’s sake? While the play succeeds as a black comedy, there is scope to mine a lot more humour from both the characters and the story. With such a large cast, the script sometimes seems a bit laboured and the play would benefit either from tighter writing or fewer actors.
Holy Sh*t is a funny play with a conclusion that is worth waiting for and contains plenty of black humour which is well delivered. While there is scope to make it funnier still, it is nonetheless recommended as a show to catch in Edinburgh if you missed it at the Manchester Fringe