Omo is released from Brixton prison after his good work with a Christian group. His mentor, Dona, sees him as a sign of how well she has done and her ticket to upward movement in the organisation. But Omo has slightly different views about religion; he does not just believe in God, he believes that he is the second coming, a saviour sent to save the world, starting with Brixton. Matthew Amer was at the first night of Oladipo Agboluaje's new comedy, The Christ Of Coldharbour Lane, at the Soho theatre.
While behind bars Omo had a captive audience. The inhabitants of Brixton have more on their minds than hearing from yet another preacher. South London in 2007, Agboluaje points out, isn't interested in how religion can help spiritually; it wants quick fixes to life's problems: a paid-off mortgage, a shop that breaks even, a KFC bucket. That prostitute/stripper Maria Maudlin (Dona Croll) chooses to dance in a Union Jack hints at a time and a place that is all about immediate, earthly, tangible pleasure.
No matter how much adversity and disbelief Omo is faced with, his belief in his position as saviour of the world, and mission to save the poor from the oppression of 'wilful peace', drives him forward. But a miracle would be needed to convince the unbelievers, and only a true redeemer would be able to pull off that trick.
Agboluaje's comedy speaks with a language that is clearly defined in time and space. The multi-cultural melting pot of Brixton is evoked through cast members being master of many an accent and subtle quick change artists. Only Jimmy Akingbola, portraying the utter conviction in Omo, sticks with one character throughout the evening. Mark Monero and Javone Prince in particular take on a multitude of roles and impress both with their ability to flit in and out of characters and their comic timing. Lines warning that the film Notting Hill – famous for its lack of ethnicity in portraying one of London's most culturally diverse areas –is "the vision of a future Britain" and to "never trust a man who's still on Pay As You Go", keep the piece distinctly present and drop from the cast's tongues with deadpan perfection.
Among the humour and stereotypes, played up by director Paulette Randall, Agboluaje's comedy takes a look at fame culture, modern day evangelism, the need to just fit in and live an everyday life and what might happen if someone tried to do something radically different.
The Christ Of Coldharbour Lane runs at the Soho until 23 June.