Calum Macleod

The most blasphemous nominee for the Footlights’ annual playwriting prize is being performed this week at our very own ADC Theatre. Do you ever think it’s funny that, given that humans are pretty essentially suited to just under a century of existence, we fantasise about living for eternity an awful lot? Pearly Gates: A Kafkaesque Romcom in Heaven is what happens when two comedy writers, with one RS GCSE between them, sit in a room and talk about heaven for long enough. How would you adjust to a place where time and death are meaningless? What about having infinite time to bump into *that* ex who you just about hoped you might never have to see again? Is learning Gaelic still a waste of my time? And how the hell did your ex get into heaven?!?

When you get down to the practicalities of it all, utopia might not be so hot. Sure we all wish we had time to learn a language on the side, but what about every single language ever, along with all the books written in them? In Pearly Gates, the residents of our paradise find plenty of ways to fill the endless void, from zero-gravity squash to 600 years working on the golf swing, but nothing can quite seem to stop their own salvation from crushing them. As the title suggests, we’ve also made sure to give a fair portrayal of all the paperwork the admin Angels have to do to keep that place from falling out the sky. In Pearly Gates, heaven isn’t fun for anyone (apart from the audience). The show considers the realities of living forever from several angles. For starters, you can wave goodbye to life-long friendship – there’s nothing like infinite time to make you sick of someone. As heavenly newcomers Monica (the weirdo) and (big nerd) Ethan learn, enough time in the evergreen meadows will even make you sick of yourself.

“In Pearly Gates, the residents of our biblical paradise find plenty of ways to fill the endless void but nothing can quite seem to stop their own salvation from crushing them.”

Pearly Gates also covers the opportunities for personal development a timeframe like eternity offers. Infinite time means any of the deceased can totally master any skill in its complete entirety. Just think about how mad LinkedIn gets up there. Only problem is, one day you run out of things worth getting good at. Eventually, you find yourself yo-yoing because you don’t know what else to do – and then before you know it, it’s been thirty years and you still haven’t quite mastered the wrist flick. Of course, heaven-dwellers have invented a few pastimes we don’t have the enjoyment of – like going back down to Earth as a ghost and slamming doors in old creepy houses. Totally pointless – but you should see their faces. One purgatorial prankster, Kate, gets a particular kick out of going down and hiding under the bed of someone who’s got one leg over the cover and one leg under the cover. Then – just as they’re about to fall asleep – she grabs it! What a kook.

The show follows a blank-slate protagonist, Will, who functions as a peephole through which the audience encounters our version of heaven, but also who is the subject of the “Kafkaesque Romcom” segment of “Kafkaesque Romcom in Heaven”. Will enters to learn he has been placed in a very unflattering karma percentile, and thus his only options are *eternal hell* or reincarnation – as Gonorrhoea, a dung beetle in the 14th century Sahara Desert, or a lab-rat. To make things even more disorientating, he can’t even remember anything from his life – he’s got post-mortal amnesia, the leaflets say. In a state of disbelief, he decides to initiate an appeal and is given seven fleeting days to gather evidence for his defence in the eternal merry-go-round that is about 80% of all humans to ever have existed.


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Since rehearsals have begun, directors Izzy Smith and Lara Cosmetatos, have grown Pearly Gates far beyond our quiet little script. We’ve really enjoyed how cast members have added their own comedic touches – from Liam Shinar’s slightly too convincing anti-bureaucracy rants as Saint Peter to Sophie Brawn’s fantastically deadpan interpretation of Moira the Admin Angel. Giving the cast the freedom to take the script into their own hands has made the whole process an especially fun one and made sure the collaborative character of the show has been a constant from the writing room to the stage.

On Will’s time-bending, mind-blending journey he’ll encounter the jaded, the wacky, and the downright sad personalities that are bumbling around up there, but it won’t be until his past life hits him full force in the face that he realises where he really wants to be. Pearly Gates features karma bands and reincarnation cycles, dung beetles doing calculus and the perplexing musical genre of grindcore: in other words, it’s exactly the unconventional romance plot you’ve been looking for at 11pm on a school night. To join us on the “imaginative and funny” comedy adventure that left Taskmaster’s Alex Horne “feeling peculiar about whether I will ultimately want to get into the Pearly Gates”, buy your ticket to paradise now.

Pearly Gates: A Kafkaesque Romcom in Heaven is showing at the ADC Theatre, Wednesday 23rd to Saturday 26th October, at 11pm.

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