The first thing I noticed about Being Jesus was that it got the easy jokes out of the way quickly. The play more or less opens on Mary handing Jesus a bottle of wine for his birthday—though he soon finds out it’s water. Cue laughter. And cue laughter again and again for the first fifteen minutes as the near-hour-long show cycles at a fast pace through these obvious jokes.
But then, for the rest of the play, I quickly began to realise that there probably isn’t enough substance to this whole ‘it’s Jesus’s birthday’ idea to fuel forty-five minutes of theatre. Certainly there are a few interesting conversations—one particularly between Satan and Judas—that actually serve to question deeper ideas that each of the on-stage characters represent. For instance, the introduction has God remembering Christmas but forgetting that it’s his son’s birthday. This is a clever joke, and I read it perhaps as a commentary on society at large, though the play doesn’t underscore it too much, so perhaps I’m just looking for meaning where there isn’t any.
Being Jesus is, after all, a comedy. It’s a comedy about a dysfunctional family coming together, and it’s not a lot else. And due to this lack of range the show only really oscillates between being either a very good comedy or a very drawn-out one. Epitomising this latter state are two particular scenes: a dance sequence, and God’s standup comedy routine. Each of these scenes add nothing to the play, and in each of these two-to-four minute scenes the joke is dead by halfway through at best.
This is a pretty good indicator of a lot of the play’s content—it all just runs a bit too long. Being Jesus is a show I chose to attend because the blurb on Anywhere’s site made me laugh—plain and simple, it sounds hilarious on paper. And I have a feeling that feeling I had when reading the blurb is exactly why this show got made. Because it’s a funny idea, and it feels like it has potential. But when you’ve got forty-five minutes to fill inside a function room of one of West End’s most spiritually-dead bars, it’s an idea you’d need a miracle to draw something meaningful from.