Book Of Mormon, Edinburgh****: Outrageous, brilliant and painfully funny

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I found myself trying to explain the plot of Book Of Mormon to my mum after the press night at the Playhouse.

Still not entirely sure how you shoehorn AIDS, child rape, and female genital mutilation into a conversation about a musical, and still exclaim: “It was fantastic!”

I’m late to the Mormon party - this was my first time seeing the show - but it was everything I hoped for, and much more. This is satire at its most biting.

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Outrageous, brutally funny, and brilliantly staged, it doesn’t so much cross a line as rip it into shreds, draw a new line and rip that one up, and keep going until no taboo topic has been left untouched.

Connor Peirson, Aviva Tulley and Robert Colvin in The Book Of Mormon (Pic: Paul Coltas)Connor Peirson, Aviva Tulley and Robert Colvin in The Book Of Mormon (Pic: Paul Coltas)
Connor Peirson, Aviva Tulley and Robert Colvin in The Book Of Mormon (Pic: Paul Coltas)

Book Of Mormon mines every single one for gags so dark even Jerry Sadowitz might, just might, draw a line at using.

But it succeeds thanks to the brilliance of the script and a cast which dazzles from start to finish.

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Seven years in development, Book of Mormon has become a bona fide Broadway classic - a show so wickedly funny it leaves you laughing out loud while also wondering if it’s actually okay to laugh at all given the subject matter.

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The Book of Mormon (Pic: Paul Coltas)The Book of Mormon (Pic: Paul Coltas)
The Book of Mormon (Pic: Paul Coltas)

Created by the team behind South Parks and Avenue Q, fans will recognise the style of humour immediately, and revel in its absolute confidence to say the completely unsayable, while still providing a unique night of entertainment that sends you out into the street humming the songs rather than fuming with outrage.

That’s a heck of a neat trick to pull off.

Book Of Mormon succeeds because, for all its outrageous and offensive lines and liberal swearing, it’s a story of friendship which is threaded through the show.

It starts at missionary camp in Salt Lake City where a new batch of Mormons are handed their first missions and sent out to spread the word about their good book.

Preppy, clean cut Elder Price, played by Robert Colvin, is teamed with socially awkward, no-mates Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson), and his hopes of going to Orlando are shattered when they are directed to Uganda.

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Cue a parody of The Lion King as they are dispatched to an AIDS and poverty ridden Africa of stereotypes which leave you gasping in disbelief.

The songs get more outrageous throughout - if Hasa Diga Eebowai leaves you gobsmacked, brace yourself for the showstopping Spooky Mormon Hell Dream which conjures up Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ghengis Khan, and the lawyer who got OJ Simpson off. We’re not in Kansas now Toto…

Peirson excels as the nerdy Cuningham whose awkwardness dovetails with the sweetness of village girl, Nabulungi (Aviva Tulley). The running gag over his inability to pronounce her name is pure panto - and great fun.

So, is it offensive? Well, if you want to be outraged there’s no point removing your coat as you’ll be out the door within minutes, but, strap in and you’ll be rewarded with a show that is both sacrilegious and sensational in equal measure.

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And a footnote. As the audience poured out on press night, two young Mormons were at the doors to say hello.

Maybe the church gets the last laugh after all …

The Book Of Mormon, Edinburgh Playhouse, until October 8.

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