The King's Players – King's College London, that is – have boldly brought a free show to a quality venue, and the result is better than most shows you have to pay for. This delightful production about the way the world works, and the way we would rather have it work, is centred around the titular Mrs Leech: 74, Chairman of the Boules Club, and emphatically from Yorkshire. When Mrs Leech dies and goes to heaven, all hell (well, figuratively) breaks loose. She gets into a fight with God Himself, sways the angels in her favour, and ends up with unlimited divine rights over all the world for all eternity.
Mrs Leech is a feisty old lady, in spite of her bad back; she's protective of her family, and has a well-developed sense of justice along with a soft spot for tea. When she finds that God (in his patterned dressing gown) is not being very kind to a young boy with bone cancer – or to the whole of Gambia, suffering a devastating drought – she cannot stand idly by. Supported by angel Toby, she comes into power as the 'new' Goddess, and tries her hand at running the world from her divine throne. Some unexpected events follow, leading to both hilarity and an eventual restoration of faith in the natural order of things.
The young Kat Pierce has internalized Mrs Leech to the point where she seems a real-life 74-year old. Her performance, with its broad Yorkshire accent, shuffling gait and exaggerated facial expressions, is flawless and very entertaining. Ally McDermott makes a provocative but convincing God, easy to feel indignant with, full of boastful narcissism and disdain for all around him. The strength of the script is spurred on by the acting prowess of these central characters and their supporting cast of angels, and the friction between the almighty and a diminutive septuagenarian elicited a lot of cheers from the audience – it's not hard to guess for which side.
At one point, the portrayal of God as an annoying, petulant child did grow a little wearing. And I found the conclusion a tad abrupt as well, though perhaps that was only because I didn't want the show to end. But these are minor points, and it's hard to find any significant fault with this all-student production.
The professionalism of the act is stunning, and the concept is sure to prove popular with Fringe-goers this year. Unusually for a free show, you can book a ticket to guarantee you'll get in… so enjoy the tinge of blasphemy, and maybe take some biscuits with you! Mrs Leech would approve of that.