AS an on-stage romp aimed at exposing the failings and eccentricities of the Vatican and the Catholic hierarchy. the adaptation of Dario Fo's The Pope and the Witch currently showing at London's Comedy Theatre is a very damp squib.
For comic opportunity Fo could hardly have chosen a better target than the Vatican but Andy de la Tour's reworking of this latest Fo play (he is best known for his Accidental Death of an Anarchist) has drained whatever humour the original script contained, and left the jokes to wilt clumsily before the audience.
For good measure he has even added a character of his own based on the Chicago prelate wanted for questioning in connection with the Banco Ambrosiano fraud, Cardinal Marcinkus (renamed here Cardinal Stillaci, head of Vatican security).
But the character is so feebly developed that all the potential for anarchic fun, exploring the Vatican's own brand of in-house mafia, is lost.
David Horovitch, who plays Cardinal Stillaci, would be better cast in a spoof of Starsky and Hutch where at least his obvious unease with American gangster slang would raise a few laughs of its own.
The play pokes fun at Catholicism's stance on abortion and what is seen as the Vatican's distance from the lives of its flock. It is not that this is at all shocking but simply that the way the issues are tackled comes across as being puerile in the extreme.
Pope John Paul (who can never remember the number of his title) is cured of a paralytic condition by a witch-doctor (well played by Frances de la Tour who does her best to hold the play together) who enters the Vatican as a nun. The idea is great, but the
execution is not, TE