Theatre review: Believers Anonymous at the Rosemary Branch Theatre

Cordelia Lynn’s witty new play treats religion as addiction

�A new and atheistic Global Society rules earth. Under its all-controlling eye a group of believers meets each week on a twelve-step programme to conquer their addiction to religious faith.

Except they want to do nothing of the sort, as we soon find out in Believers Anonymous, an original and entertaining new play by Cordelia Lynn and Strip Theatre at the Rosemary Branch.

These believers take every opportunity to rebel against and ridicule their councillor, Joanne. Played with all the passion of the ex-believer by Keisha Amponsa Banson, she is the bully set on saving them from themselves – every inch the fanatic herself, in fact.

Into this hostile mix steps Terry, an innocent with no real dogma except a certainty that ‘there is more’. This vague contentment sets him on a collision course with Joanne. Bullying and exhorting by turn, she makes it her mission to show Terry and the rest ‘how beautiful it is to be free’ – even if she has to strip away his happiness to do it.

Writer Cordelia Lynn has lots of fun with her material, and so do the audience. From the pagan in a toga carrying a cricket bat (‘It’s the closest I can get to sacred elm’) to the silent eccentric who turns up one week dressed as Jesus, the next as a Hasidic Jew, there is much to enjoy. I personally would convert to anything to avoid a weekly encounter with Joanne, and it was satisfying to see her faith in the Global Society exposed and the group take revenge for her petty tyranny.

It may be that some of the ideas got lost in the jumble of characters, but when actors are having this much fun with a play, and a playwright with her material, it guarantees a good evening for the crowd.

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* Believers Anonymous was performed by Strip Theatre at the Rosemary Branch Theatre in Shepperton Road, N1, until Saturday, June 23.