Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Review: Hand To God at the Vaudeville Theatre

Hand To God
Vaudeville Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 15th February 2016

Never in my life have I seen a play vaguely comparable to Hand To God. Having played three off-Broadway seasons before transferring to the Great White Way for a nine month run, Robert Askins' comedy has now found its way to London. Moritz von Stuelpnagel directs an all British cast who offer some remarkable performances as the evening progresses.

The opening scene is set in the local church where Puppet Practice is in full swing under the supervision of Margery (Janie Dee), who recently lost her husband. One participant Jason (Harry Melling) takes things too far; his puppet Tyrone embarks on a life of its own leading to unthinkable scenes of pure savagery.

I don't want to give too much away, but elsewhere there are messed up moments of forbidden lust as well as the most insane puppet sex to have ever graced a West End stage. Hand To God is not for the faint hearted or easily offended - the poor woman next to me looked away from the stage for the majority of the second act whilst others around me couldn't contain their squeals of laughter. Half the time I didn't know what to do with myself! I have never murmured 'oh my god' under my breath so many times during a show.

Harry Melling gives the performance of the night; some of his scenes as Jason/Tyrone are unthinkably sharp, he nails the comedy and rises to the huge challenges. The always glorious Janie Dee reminds us of her talent for comedy - be prepared to see Janie Dee as you've never seen Janie Dee before. Elsewhere Kevin Mains makes a huge impression as Timothy and Jemima Rooper excels as Jessica whilst Neil Pearson steals some of the most brilliant lines in the second half as Pastor Greg.

It takes time for Hand To God to find its feet; at first I felt the enthusiastic press night audience were being a little overgenerous with their laughs, but mid-way through the first act the piece soared to a whole new level. The second act continued with better pace, boundaries are pushed beyond belief.

As long as you're in the right frame of mind, Hand To God is a lot of fun. It's shallow, silly and absolutely bonkers - I am still slightly traumatised!

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Hand To God runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until 11th June 2016.
Please visit www.nimaxtheatres.com for further information and tickets.

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