Mercury premieres sexy, up-to-date take on Bible classic

King David, Man of Blood by Fraser Grace at Colchester Mercury until June 12.

Every year, without fail, at this time of year, says his favourite wife Abigail, the king either goes off to war or he chooses a new wife. He already has quite a number of these and, along with his political advisor, she is keen that this time David should go off and smite the Ammonites.

But David is in a funny mood, one he can’t fathom himself. He doesn’t want to go to war. Nor does he understand why he remains God’s chosen one when he constantly causes such savage, murderous bloodshed, not just to his enemies but to their women, their children - and their horses. Have you seen the things I’ve done, he cries out. Surely a king should be more than a killing machine?

But what he doesn’t know is that the Almighty has just accepted a wager with the Devil. He has bet that Lucifer will not get David into such evil that he will question the will of God and eventually curse Him.

Who wins is a matter for the audience to find out but evil there is aplenty. Fraser Grace has put some seriously sexy up-to-date flesh on those old Sunday school biblical bones and dressed it up with some wonderful wit and humour which allows the King of Israel a fine flow of modern language, including a few four-letter words that the good book left out.


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Dee Evans directs a colourful story with flair on Sara Perks’ brilliant, hugely simple set and she’s dressed the piece in great costumes that echo ancient Egypt but with just a neat whiff of today’s high street. God and his missus are in nice white West End suits and, naturally, Beelzebub’s in black.

Posing as David’s servant, Lucifer carefully inveigles the king into an affair with Bethsebe, a married woman, and David has her husband, one of his captains, deliberately killed in battle to get him out of the way. God will have to punish him. But when he does, will David deny Him and curse Him?

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David Tarkenter is the king, tough, unrelenting, without too much light and shade of voice but powerful and word-perfect in a demanding role that has him on stage practically all through. In a very different, entertaining show, there are strong performances also from Tony Casement (Lucifer), Ignatius Anthony (Nathan), Clare Humphrey (Bethsebs) as well as a large supporting cast.

David Henshall.

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