The Messiah, Chichester Festival Theatre - review

Lesley Garrett in The Messiah. Photo: Robert Day
Lesley Garrett in The Messiah. Photo: Robert Day

On paper, The Messiah has all the ingredients for a perfect pre-Christmas production.

That master of droll humour Hugh Dennis leading a small but exquisite cast.

Soprano Lesley Garrett providing some operatic highlights packed with festive flavour.

And a plot - an am dram interpretation of the Nativity - which is designed to get the audience in holiday mood.

Despite all that, this is a production which frustratingly disappoints like a rogue Christmas cracker which fails to go bang when pulled and then only produces a plastic moustache.

It’s true that there were regular ripples of laughter from the audience. And everyone involved threw themselves into it body and - appropriately - soul.

There was a bit of everything too. Slapstick. A lovely revolving pillared stage. The complete retelling of the birth of Christ. Audience participation.

One poor member of the ticket-paying fraternity was even dragged on stage at the end as a lamb.

But as a pastiche on am drams it was never quite engaging or funny enough - despite John Marquez’s dexterous transformation from Mary to numerous other roles.

It would be terrific to see Dennis, Garrett and Marquez back at the CFT as soon as possible. Their presence is a real treat.

Just not in The Messiah.

The Messiah, Chichester Festival Theatre until Saturday November 17.