The Book of Mormon – The travelling South Park show. (Theatre Review)

The Book of Mormon

The Lyric Theatre

Now booking through to 2 September. You can grab your tickets here.

Ok. So, I’m not a South Park fan. Never have been. I know this claim places me in grave danger of the accusation I’m missing a sense of humour, but I’m a female Gen X’er and I REALLY feel that I have given white private school frat boy humour enough time in my short life. I’ve only got one life after all. South Park has always been one good gag per show surrounded by AIDS and defecation jokes as far as I can see. I’m not against this, I just don’t want to be subjected to it. If there are still people alive today who get a kick out of this style of humour, knock yourself out. Enjoy the show and have a great time. However, for me, South Park is an unclever yawn fest on repeat.

What I didn’t realise, is that The Book of Mormon is nothing more than the travelling South Park show. I saw all the reviews and presumed Trey Parker and Matt Stone were branching out… doing something different! (At last!!) I saw You Tube versions of “Hello,” “Turn It Off” and “I Believe” and genuinely thought I was in for a real treat. For those of you interested in forking out the (incredible) $258.00 for your ticket, I suggest sitting through at least four back to back episodes of South Park first. If you love it – get yourself to The Book of Mormon as fast as possible. If you hate it – give the whole thing a skip and wait for it to be on at your local guides hall for $30. There are enough pretty good gags to justify thirty bucks. The funniest parts of the show are in the three songs I mentioned.

But if you are looking for a sophisticated riff of the musical genre, a comedic commentary on white heroes in Africa or Americans poking fun at Americans, it aint gonna happen for you. The idea of making a musical about Mormons is great and pregnant with possibility. But none of the truly clever ideas spawned by this premise are explored, and all ‘depth of observation’ is accidental at best or ideologically refused at worst. Trey Parker and Matt Stone do not have the wit to really take their excellent first gag and make something of it, nor the googling skills to bone up on Mormons or Ugandans and make an interesting comedic commentary. Nor do they have the dexterity to weave black comic narrative through the baby rape jokes and noble savage routines. This is plain and simple white private school boy humour, Americans laughing at folk they do not understand and can’t see for their own agenda and a flagrant celebration of the American perspective. The Book of Mormon is a VERY American show – do not expect any universal sensibilities or self-reflection. South Park is not in the business of taking a good hard look at the United States – only worshipping it. Any pretense made toward these sensibilities is purely that.

That is not to say The Book of Mormon shouldn’t exist or that folk shouldn’t attend. My intention here is to tell it like it is. I have a family member who adores South Park, and I have already told him to run, not walk, to get his tickets. Apparently South Park fans need musicals too, and this is one specifically designed for them. For the rest of us, just wait till it hits your local hall – you’ll have a better time at 90% off.

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