Walking into the room, your vision is obscured by a thick mist. As you walk towards the front, the clouds part to reveal a lone figure on stage. Jesus Christ (Josh Ladgrove, aka Dr Professor Neal Portenza) stands nailed (taped) to the cross, softly calling to his children to sit in the front row. The audience settles, grows quiet and then Christ says “Heckle me.”
Come Heckle Christ delivers on the promise of its title. The show is simply Ladgrove responding to whatever the audience yells out for the duration. This does make for the occasional awkward silence but with a little gentle encouragement the crowd got stuck in. Heckles ranged from the expected (“Take it off!”) to the religious (“Was Judas a good kisser?”) to just plain offensive (“Are you ashamed for providing the material for ‘The DaVinci Code?”). The unmistakable voice of Dave Callan called out a few times, prompting a heckle at him – “Are you pissed off you didn’t think of this first?” However as the evening progressed, things got a bit friendlier and turned into more of a Q&A with our pal Jesus.
Stick a bunch of Melbournites in a room with Christ and the impulse seems to be to politely seek guidance about whatever burning questions pop into their head – Is it time to upgrade my computer? Whatever happened to pogs?
Ladgrove’s Christ is suitably beatific. His responses to heckles were quick and deadpan, occasionally slipping out of character when required. Ladgrove engages the crowd well and keeps things rolling. It’s an interesting concept for a show. So much of the humour is reliant on the audience. At any point the show could go flat or turn sour yet, miraculously, Come Heckle Christ works.
Christ will return this Easter weekend. I can’t think of a more appropriate way for comedy fans to spend the evening.
Come Heckle Christ is on at the The Tuxedo Cat on April 20