Don’t be a sinner be a winner. There is one man who owns this catchphrase, and it may seem uncharitable but whenever I ran into this God-fearing mega mouth in Oxford Street, I used to chuckle to myself that his rowdy proselytizing, actually made him the anathema of peace of earth.
However it was probably his being issued with an ASBO for noise pollution that made many Londoners believe there was a God listening to their prayers.
The Lord it seems works in mysterious ways and this is exactly the premise of Oladipo Agboluaje’s new satirical comedy The Christ of Coldharbour Lane.
It tells the tale of Omo, a reformed con and born again Christian, who returns to Brixton, to convert the denizens of Crack Alley to the Lord. But as well as being part of The Mission and under the tutelage of the promotion obsessed Sister Dona, played by Nadine Marshall, he also believes he is the reincarnation of Christ.
Omo descends on the streets of Brixtoni with a steadfast commitment to gather his disciples, and needless to say, the citizens of SW4 have a lot of fun with him. In exchange for their loyalty, they goad him into making a miracle. But man cannot live on prayer alone and Omo succumbs to the charms of the beautiful but barbed local lap dancer Mary Maudlin, played to brilliant comic effect by the sensational Dona Croll.
Under Paulette Randall’s direction, this production flies by although some scene changes, with the actors standing proxy for stage hands do feel a little cumbersome. But what is achieved to peerless effect is the chaos of Brixton street life, captured by the swift costumes changes, with actors each playing a selection, winos, junkies, pushers and players.
There is something humorous and authentic about all these protagonists and Javone Prince who plays rookie BBC reporter Greg desperate for his first scoop, shows the true breadth and brilliance of his acting skills as he morphs between countless roles and guises in the street scenes. Jimmy Akingbola’s Omo, however, had little stage presence, lacking projection and power he could never have made it as a real street preacher, able to cut it on the mean streets on Brixton.
The Christ of Coldharbour Lane may leave them rolling in the aisles with its wry take on the personalities and peculiarities of this corner of south London, but it also makes a nod to the more serious issues of inner city blight, race issues, urban regeneration, religious fanaticism, and its threat to the status quo even though the post-apocalyptic 28 Days Later-esque ending was a little far fetched.
If the Lord does truly work in mysterious ways, maybe the New Jerusalem will be built amidst the crumbling ruins of the Ritzy Cinema. But it won’t be baskets of fish rather buckets of KFC that are doled out to the hungry and needy.