The Service

I went in expecting to hate FacePlant's The Service. Adverts for the show promise “clowning”, "singing hymns", and "consecrating the sacred cabbage”, which together seemed like the worst way possible to spend a Tuesday night. Somehow, despite myself, I enjoyed experiencing all three of these deeply unpalatable things.

bubbles with genuine incestuous tension

The show follows members of a cult, sorry, 'family', intent on demonstrating their off-putting liturgy to potential converts in the audience along with justifying their unfavourable appearances on 'crimewatch'. They start off by ordering each audience member to sign a legally dubious looking 'waiver' before lapsing into several minutes of inbreeding-oriented prayer. While full-audience participation in this group worship is strictly enforced, the cast only break the fourth wall sparingly, with much of the show focusing on the protagonists' sordid origins and their prophetic and 'actual' father Ray.

The performers demonstrate chemistry which bubbles with such genuine incestuous tension that it was hard to believe that they weren't really at it backstage, and if they were, I'm grateful. Characters are well drawn and disturbing ('Moses' likes 'violence' and also 'fun', the latter punctuated with an upsetting hip-thrust), and the story leaps down a series of narrative rabbit holes so depraved they make Charles Manson look like Julie Andrews. The plot is surprisingly grounded and is dotted with moments of genuine pathos; imagine if Les Mis and Josef Fritzl's autobiography had a love-child and gave it up to Mr Blobby for adoption. Actually, don't. Just know that it's a great show which moves beyond its ostensible am-dram sensibilities, and I really hope the actors aren't related.