Hand to God - Vaudeville Theatre (Review)
Review by Shanna Schreuder
DESTINED to divide audiences, Robert Askins’s Hand to God is hugely offensive, crude and downright dirty, but it’s also funny, honest and stimulating.
Using a new vehicle to tell the age-old story of a father’s death destroying the relationship between a mother and her son, this puppet-driven piece will make you laugh at life’s cruel jokes.
The show starts with a sermon-like introduction by Tyrone, the foul-mouthed extension of Jason’s arm, on how evil thoughts and the devil were conjured up by man. This doesn’t just neatly set the blasphemous tone, but also nicely indicates who is in charge and gives us a sense of what to expect from our first and following encounters with the seemingly tame Christian puppet club.
Led by the conservative yet sexy Margery, the group is made up of Jason, her shy teenage son; Jessica, Jason’s nerdy but cute love interest; and Timothy, the bad boy of the bunch.
Fully supported by Pastor Greg, who’s eager to offer up his “empty arms” to Margery, the puppeteers reluctantly meet in the Sunday school classroom to practice their skills, unaware of the demonic spirit hiding deep within – cue all forms of Bible bashing, an extensive puppet sex scene, S&M sessions and a Tarantino-inspired torture scene.
Harry Melling, as both Jason and Tyrone, delivers an excellent performance, as he faultlessly switches from meek to menacing and back again. Janie Dee reveals a sympathetic side to Margery, while Kevin Mains is a perfect fit as Timothy.
Neil Pearson seeks to turn the smarmy Pastor Grey into the hero of the ensemble, but is pipped to the post by Jemima Rooper’s gutsy Jessica.
Hand to God is a fun and smart play that examines heavy topics like grief, insanity and self-loathing in a light-hearted manner. And there’s no harm in that.
Hand to God – Vaudeville Theatre
Tickets: Monday to Thursday evening and Saturday matinee, £25 – £49.50; Friday and Saturday evening, £28 – £52.50; Wednesday matinee, all tickets £25. £10 off all prices for preview performances. To book, call 0330 333 4814 or visit www.handtogodlondon.com/. Until June 11, 2016
Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm; Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.
Running Time: 2 hours (with interval).