St James Cavalier

In these days of expendable relationships and increased agnosticism, where debates like the pro-choice movement, the secular versus the religious, the legalisation of divorce and gender equality are such hot potatoes, it comes as a breath of fresh air to have a play like Oliver Lansley’s Immaculate to offer some levity to the often heated arguments surrounding these issues.

Theatre Anon’s production of Immaculate, which is currently running at St James Cavalier, has been a blast of fresh air in the theatrical season since January. Within the comedy genre, it worked extremely well because the irreverent nature of the themes it tackles was delivered by a script rich in dry wit and sarcasm. As a dark comedy, it pitted the oft-contended concepts of religion as understood in layman’s terms, with the very mundane, yet highly topical issues like relationship breakdown, pregnancy and single motherhood and the assertion of independence.

Mia, played by Charlotte Grech in top form, is a girl with a problem – she’s pregnant – unwillingly and impossibly so. It’s been over a year since she broke up with her boyfriend, Michael, portrayed by that likeable rogue Stefan Cachia Zammit, and he is the last person she’s slept with – so where the hell, or should I say, where in heaven’s name, did the baby come from? Cue in two of the most unearthly visits one ought never expect – the Angel Gabriel – sorry, Archangel – played by Paul Portelli at his comic best and Lucifer, given to us by Alan Paris in snazzy Al Pacino garb, who both visit Mia in succession and proceed to unnerve her by both laying claim on the baby.

In the true spirit of comedy, the play could not be complete without the best friend with a secret of her own, Rebecca, in a star performance by Denise Mulholland; and a visit from an unexpected and not very well-respected old classmate, Gary Goodman, portrayed very well by Alan Montanaro. With such a cast, Mia’s story could not have been better told.

Lansley has borrowed elements from Greek theatre, with the use of a chorus, played by the same actors, to fill in the narrative gaps and by having several of the characters, but most importantly, Mia, to directly address the audience as well as interacting with their fellow cast members. All of which were handled to great effect by Polly March’s experienced direction.

The play addresses several questions which we have about faith, religion, life and relationships and ponders how a second coming would be received by today’s society.

In arguing over the blessed or damned baby, Paul Portelli and Alan Paris made a great duo and played off each other to perfection, with Mr Paris changing tones and Mr Portelli’s excellent facial expressions, matched by the equally strong dynamic that Ms Grech had with the rest of the cast.

Mr Cachia Zammit’s and Ms Mulholland’s slick and fast-paced diatribes were a joy to listen to while Mr Montanaro’s slightly naïve and needy Goodman made sleaze funny in the way only he could.

The entire cast’s near-perfect comic timing and strong on-stage presence was accentuated by the very efficient use of the small performance space, which made the most of the theatre’s structure, the minimalist yet highly effective set and good choice of lighting.

In a play entirely dedicated to misconception, in all senses of the word, the issue of paternity led the audience on a laugh-out-loud evening of apocalyptic aspirations and reminded them that if we aren’t careful, the things we take for granted are often the ones we are most likely to have problems with. Theatre Anon has, once again proven that a strong vision and tight-knit friendships result in a highly professional outcome in an unmissable comedy whose production was near-immaculate.

• Immaculate will be performed for an extra weekend between March 25 and 27.