The Underbelly’s Big Belly venue is full of water vapour spread throughout the air as drops of water trickle from the cave walls onto the performance space. It’s dark and ancient, carrying with it a history that can be looked at for the wisdom in its beauty as well as it’s unrelenting and grizzly nature… This is a perfectly fitting place for Rhum and Clay’s adaption of Dario Fo’s Mistero Buffo.
Julian Spooner dashes onto the stage as a Deliveroo jogger, presumably late, dirt on his clothes and backpack. The worker enters exhausted and worn down, and remains that way throughout the performance. Spooner sweats and tumbles his way through an adaption of Fo’s masterpiece that has taken the physical components of the original and cranked it up to 10,000. The generosity of his performance is second to none and he makes use of his talents as a physical performer to contemporise the play’s political satire for truly purposeful means: as part of this production, Rhum and Clay have teamed up with Organise, a company who allow workers to create online, public petitions that directly affect their workplaces.
Vouching for workers’ rights is the main angle of the performance, which it approaches through updated (and sometimes blasphemous) retellings of biblical stories. The resurrection of Lazarus is told from the point of view of the crowd. Gathering in the graveyard, they behave like festival goers. Merchants take advantage of the demand, charging two quid for fold-out chairs; an obnoxious toff claims he went to school with John; and a couple of friends complain about how miracles weren’t how they used to be, ‘There wasn’t any of this corporate stuff…’ Spooner shifts effortlessly between innumerable characters, creating precise relationships and a clear sense of space, as if the piece were performed by a full cast. The Big Belly’s cavern location also works perfectly for The Wedding of Cana. After Jesus turns the water into wine, strobes kick in and a rave kicks off, created entirely by Spooner, recreating a reluctant Mary Mother of Jesus taking a few sips of wine, which immediately turns into drinking an entire bottle.
The energy carried through the performance enables Spooner to take sudden dark turns in his stories, King Herod’s massacre of every first-born son turns from being grossly absurd into complete horror in a matter of seconds, as soldier’s shoot babies out of their mothers’ arms. Mistero Buffo successfully waves a flag in the name of the dispossessed and provides an intellectually, emotionally and visually stimulating expedition into non-stop sacrilege and inspiring storytelling.