"NotMoses, not funny"
-The Telegraph-

"Like a 1970s children’s TV comedy"
-The Financial Times-

"Meandering exhibition of toothless humour"
-The Evening Standard-

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A raucous, if not heretical take on events

Critic Rating

15 March 2016, Arts Theatre
Guest Reviewer Guest Reviewer
Utterly irreverent, eye-wateringly funny and as close to the boundaries of good taste as you can possibly get (and some will undoubtedly find that it strays over them), new comedy NotMoses is certainly not one for the easily offended. Written and directed by Gary Sinyor and receiving its world premiere at the Arts Theatre, it revisits those Sunday school lessons and asks the question: “what if Moses had been lactose-intolerant and needed help to get the Israelites to the land of milk and honey?”

Who would he have turned to? Why NotMoses of course, who was left in the bulrushes as a baby at the same time as Moses, but because he cried a lot, the Egyptian princess put him back and went for the other kid instead. Thus having disappointed his father, who swiftly named him NotMoses, he was condemned to a life of slavery, whilst Moses resided happily in the royal palace. Fate soon brings them together and as bush starts burning, the Exodus looks like it is going to happen one way or the other.

But being a raucous, if not heretical take on events, the story doesn’t really matter too much. Sinyor packs his script full of one-liners, visual gags, running jokes and plays on words that are delivered in such rapid-fire fashion that you’re bound to laugh at at least some of them. He’s an equal opportunities offender though, and whilst there’s an awful lot of jokes at the expense of Jewish stereotypes (overbearing mothers, chicken soup, circumcision etc), there’s a cracking sequence that gently mocks preconceived notions of Islam.

Likewise, the riff on the Islamic call to prayer made me giggle every time and the way in which the Ten Commandments are decided upon is inspired. As for the border control between Egypt and the wilderness, it is sure to crack a smile on even the most stony-faced of critics. Sinyor’s production is ramshackle at times and rough around the edges, as Carla Goodman’s occasionally unwieldy design is manoeuvred into place, but it’s all part of NotMoses’ charm; a show that you could easily imagine in Edinburgh.

It is also blessed with a strong company. Greg Barnett’s straight NotMoses is a highly appealing lead, counterbalanced well with Thomas Nelstrop’s Moses, whose journey into would-be bearded sage is wittily essayed. Danielle Bird’s forthrightly modern Miriam makes salient points about gender equality without losing any of her sharp-eyed charm and I also enjoyed Jasmine Hyde’s Egyptian princess, calling to mind Miranda Richardson as she cajoles Niv Patel’s Rameses through the various stages of their twisted relationship.

Given how daring some of the humour is, the ending feels like a bit of a cop-out; a sentimental twist that sits uneasily with what has gone before and scarcely needed in the end. For NotMoses is at its best when trying to make you laugh, and for me, it really did – though it is clearly a show you're going to either love or hate.

Reviewed by Ian Foster.

Chris Bennion
Lord deliver us. For his debut play, film-maker Gary Sinyor has taken the Book of Exodus and given it the Life of Brian treatment. Instead, however, of offering up the latter's delightfully absurd, deliriously funny and scathing satire of religion’s slavish adherence to ancient texts, what we have is an embarrassing, slapdash panto which borrows so much from Monty Python that I was surprised not see a writing credit for Palin, Idle et al.
Ian Shuttleworth
Sinyor intends to lampoon religions in general and Judaism in particular, albeit from an obviously affectionate position; in practice, his humour is of the standard of 1970s children’s TV shows, and his stage direction equally caricatured, a world away from his film work.
Henry Hitchings
How does Moses make his coffee? Hebrews it. Unless I missed something, this joke doesn't appear in Gary Sinyor's debut play but it wouldn't be out of place in a show that tries to extract humour from the similarity of the words "sphinx" and "sphincter".