God’s Official is the very embodiment of a comedy caper. With many of the hallmarks of its writer Robert Farquhar’s style, it is a fast-paced romp that appears ludicrous on the surface, but has something darker lurking underneath.
In a moment of madness, Degsy (Derek Barr) has kidnapped the referee of a match that saw his beloved team relegated. He blames his nice-but-dim best mate Clifford (John McGrellis) for planting the seed, and soon the pair are in it up to their necks.
In the middle of it all is poor old Greaves (David Kennedy Jones), a man whose faith gets him through the whole ordeal.
With a set comprising nothing aside from three chairs, the onus is on the writing and performance; and in both cases these are strongest when things are at their most madcap. The story is told as characters break the fourth wall to explain what is happening as the other actors move things along accordingly.
Farquhar’s dialogue-heavy script often relies on sharp direction and comic timing to work, needing characters able to complete the others’ sentences or follow cues without missing a beat. At its best, God’s Official – an old piece by the playwright that he has recently brought up to date – (unsurprisingly) reminds you of his work with Big Wow, and their lightning fast comedy.
There’s some great moments, like when the action moves to a van, which Clifford invariably wraps around a tree in a ditch, and a fantastically absurd chase scene. It’s testament to the cast that this bizarre world is so easily conveyed to the audience with no props at all. Barr’s performance especially is full of a manic energy that keeps things going full pelt, and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments.
However the serious moments could come across as a little clunky, and the subplot that gives the play its title – religion – seemed more of a plot device than any really meaningful exploration. It was as if God’s Official was enjoying being a comedy too much to think too hard about the details of the bigger themes it throws out there, like the hows and whys people connect with their faith, on and off the pitch.