Local musician Andrew London attended opening night of Heaven Help Us! and was kind enough to provide us this review of the show.
Heaven is full, St Peter is on leave and the Cherubs, who deliver the mail, are on strike. This scenario was obviously crying out for every pun and afterlife-themed one-liner that writer Tim Hambleton could throw at it, and rest assured he left nothing in the tank. The jokes go by so fast it’s probably worth seeing this twice to pick up what you missed the first time.
The complexity of the plot is not such that an Oscar Wilde or a Noel Coward would envy; but it is rollicking good fun and does provide an admirable framework on which to hang an anthology of gags and some colourful characters. Director Mark Harris has coaxed the essence out of each of the six, helped significantly by excellent casting. Claire Fleming is assured and comfortable as busybody waiting-room receptionist Angela Fraser, who is filling in for St Peter. Bruce Weir is equally engaging as her first ‘client’ of the day, goody-two-shoes Charles Little.
David Butterfield lucked in big time by being cast as macho deer hunter Trevor Brown, and relishes the role, delivering some of the best lines in the show:
‘Don’t You believe in God then?’ – ‘No, I’m an anaesthetist’.
Kimberley Butterfield shines as nasty corporate ladder-climbing CEO Simone; evoking Meryl Streep in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ but with more outright sarcasm and malevolence. We can’t wait to see her get her comeuppance.
Grace Wynne-Evans portrays Gothic teenager Natasha Hollows to an utterly convincing tee, rounding out an eclectic gang of new arrivals surprised to find themselves in Heaven’s waiting room rather than the ‘other place.
The show is stolen, however, by the arrival off the bench (half way through the second half in standard Kiwi tradition) of Nancy McLean, playing mischievous old battle-axe Dorothy Simpson. Nancy’s ‘possum in the headlights’ entry and her dry comic timing are the perfect late-game pick-me-up, carrying the show through with lively pace to an ‘oh is it over already?’ finale.
Award for attention to detail? Perhaps the ‘Repenthouse’ magazine in the waiting room.
And if I seem to be giving away too many of the punch-lines – don’t worry, there’s plenty more where these came from in ‘Heaven Help Us!’.