Funny religion

2010-11-09 00:00

WHAT are people’s perceptions of Biblical characters — Charlton Heston coming down a mountain in a dodgy outfit?

Durban actor Aaron McIlroy believes the media, film and television have long played a role in skewing people’s perceptions of Christianity.

Movies like Steven Spielberg’s The Prince of Egypt, and a host of others, have, he says, created a glossy, but fictitious, perception of the people who populate the Bible.

“The Bible is full of many of the greatest stories ever told. Often enough they have been told badly, so I thought: why don’t I have a shot at telling them badly too?” he added.

McIlroy’s latest show, The Happy Clapper, speaks as much to those who follow other beliefs, as it does to members of the Christian faith, offering a broad range of perspectives that aim to enlighten and entertain, while treating religious matters in a robust if tongue-in-cheek light.

“We need to lighten up, and not be so judgmental in dealing with our fellow humans,” says McIlroy. “We can do this by bringing a sense of integrity to our dealings with each other, while at the same time looking at the subject matter that preoccupies us in our worship.

“We think we are ‘in the know’, while often we are actually clueless. Seen from the outside, there is a stigma attached to being a so-called ‘reborn Christian’. But how weird is it, actually?”

The first half of The Happy Clapper opens with a run through the Old Testament, courtesy of McIlroy donning the persona of a rabbi sharing elements of his own personal history, so to speak. Following this, the actor morphs into Bluff inhabitant Gary van Vuuren, who’s a fundi at unlocking all matters pertaining to the New Testament.

“Gary’s the perfect example of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread,” says McIlroy. “Only, he cracks it more often than he knows. Just when you think he’s heading for the rocks, he nails it right in the centre.”

After interval, McIlroy’s ubiquitous alter ego, Veejay, surfaces to offer a guiding hand on how to negotiate your way around the potential hazards of traversing the evangelical Christian world, commenting on taboos like sex, booze and money.

Co-written and directed by Patrick Kenny, The Happy Clapper previews at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre today and tomorrow and then runs from November 11 to 28. Performances are at 7.30 pm (Tuesday to Saturday) and 3 pm on Sunday.

Tickets are R85 at Computicket.

— Arts Editor.

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