The Gospel According to Philip is a comedic exploration of the New Testament through the eyes of Philip – a half disciple as named by Judas. The action follows Jesus’ struggle to maintain order as his spreads his word with the help of his tempestuous disciples. This wild piece of new writing is produced by Arrows and Traps Theatre- a repertory company which has previously mounted various Shakespeare classics such as Macbeth and Titus Andronicus.

This play features stellar performances from the ensemble cast of nine. It has everything you could ask from a religious comedy: upbeat dance numbers to Ru Paul tracks; references to Monty Python and a wry sense of humour.

Will Mytum is a young endearing Philip who opens the play with a revelation to his mother (Adam Elliott) that he has decided to follow the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This two-hour long journey takes us from Jesus’ parables, through the Ten Commandments, to Judas’ betrayal and ultimately Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus struggles to maintain control of the disciples. The play also raises pressing questions on topics such as homosexuality, the subversive nature of truth, patriarchy, discrimination and whether the influence religion has on the world is positive. There is a particularly poignant scene at the end of Act One in which the Devil (Olivia Hanrahan-Barnes) attempts to dissuade Jesus (Pearce Sampson) from his path of righteousness.

As is often the case with this company, the cast has expert comedic timing across the board. There are several hilarious encounters between the nonchalant Judas and Peter, the best of which culminates in a pointing battle. Pearce Sampson plays an unrelenting and calming Jesus Christ who seems at moments as though he is ruling over toddlers as opposed to disciples. There are moments when the play does become draining, however, but this is chiefly due to its long running time.

There is an unrelenting energy upheld throughout the performance. Alex Stevens plays a sympathetic Paul who is struggling with his sexuality; Gareth Kearns is the inquisitive Matthew who poses important questions which throw shade on the element of truth to Jesus’ parables and Elle Banstead-Salim plays a bewildered Mary Magdalene who faces accusations of being a ‘hooker’ whilst she’s trying to sell figs.

Ultimately, The Gospel According to Philip is an enjoyable enough production that takes an irreverent swipe at the New Testament.

The Gospel According to Philip is playing at The Brockley Jack Theatre until September 3 and at Theatre N16 until September 8. 

Photo: Davor Tovarlaza