The Day They Kidnapped the Pope, Street Theatre on tour

1486619_10153315402934030_6301341478797227624_nIT’S a rare treat to see a “new” play on an amateur tour, and althought Joao Bethencourt surreal comedy is 30 years old, it is new to audiences in the south west.

As it says in the title, it’s about the kidnapping of the Holy Father – on this occasion by an eccentric Brooklyn taxi driver with a world-class agenda.

Samuel Leibowitz, one of a large Jewish family of professionals, is the black sheep. His peculiar ideas have included using TNT to blow up the worms and rats in his garden, and this experience is invaluable in Pontiffical abduction.

Since his oldest son died in Vietnam, his obsession has been needless death, and so, when Pope Albert gets into his taxi for a ride to the Seminary, it’s the obvious solution. Kidnap him, take him home, lock him in the pantry, and demand world peace (or at least a 24-hour break in killing) as a ransom.

His long suffering wife Sara forms an immediate friendship with the “guest” and has him peeling potatoes for supper. Son Irving backs up his slightly loopy father, and daughter Miriam  keeps an eye on the TV for announcements surrounding what the media soon dubs World Peace Day.

The interference of a gabby Rabbi and a prissy Cardinal nearly scupper the scheme.

This brilliantly observed play, one of more than 40 by the Hungarian born, Brazilian raised Bethencourt, is (sadly) just as relevant today as it was in 1983. Wars and atrocities continue unabated.

Any production of this play depends on exceptional accents from its performers, and you might think that would be a hard task for west country amateurs, but Dennis Barwell’s company have nailed it to perfection.

Bruce Bourquin, a newcomer to the group, is Italian to the core, with Kevin Hardacre as the Northern Irish cardinal, and Ian Hurdman as the Rabbi.

Christopher Hood, who so impres­sed in Lady Windermere’s Fan, owns the role of Samuel the kidnapper, encompassing mania, wit, helpless pathos and determination all without missing a Brooklyn beat.

As his wife Jane Sayer gives another marvellously multi-layered performance.

Of course it’s comedy, of course it’s surrealism, but the ending (in the hands of this excellent company) is truly poignant.

See it at Burrowbridge Village Hall on Saturday 13th June, Coss­ington Village Hall on Thursday 18th  and the final performance at the “home” theatre at Strode Theatre, Street on  Friday 19th June.  It is well worth the journey.


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