I've been slacking...well, not actually. I've been really busy. But, anyway - I got taken to the theatre by a good friend the other week to go see a relatively new showing of a play that can be best described as a trip through a hilariously dark philosophical discussion on the inner workings and demons of man...with puppets.
Hand to God sees a young high-school boy dealing with the death of his father, the inattention of his mother, the unwanted attention of a school bully, and the desired attention of a girl. This all takes place within America's Bible Belt, within school/church grounds (they're one-in-the-same in this case). Our characters are thrown together in a puppetry class, led by the inattentive mother, over which the local pastor keeps a sensual eye.
The genius of this show is that the main character is actually two. One's the shy boy trying to deal with, quite frankly, a lot of shit on his plate. The other is his left hand...which is covered by a sock puppet the boy has made for his mother's class. This puppet is everything the boy isn't - crass, loud, demanding, sweary, and generally a total dick.
The puppet is what brings this play together. The actors have gone through quite a bit of practice with them, and they're able to control their puppets to the point where they almost stop being puppets. They feel, sound and look like they are a part of the cast. There are some great moments where you forget that the socks on these people's hands are just an extension of the actor.
Speaking of the cast, there's one face - if not name - HP fans will recognise. Harry Melling was none other than Dudley Dursley. Here he plays the lead characters Jason/Tyrone. And he nails it. As does the rest of cast. Janie Dee (Margery) and Neil Pearson (Pastor Greg) are veterans of the theatre, with Jemima Rooper (Jessica) and Kevin Mains (Timothy) no strangers to acting on both stage and set.
The experience that the cast brings to the show pays off in droves, with a solid mix of play acting and screen acting, making it accessible to theatre lovers and the YouTube generation alike. The writing is strong, with flowing and believable dialogue. And the set! Very impressive use of space - a lot of thought went into how to maximise the surroundings.
This play is more than just a load of quick laughs and some pot-shots at the church. While there is criticism of the church and its beliefs, it also shows some of its positive aspects, such as the community support it can garner. It delves into happiness, success, depression, self-pity and loneliness, and does this all while taking the piss with a deranged puppet leading the charge.
As long as you've got a sense of humour and don't get too upset with swearing and sexual themes, I'd highly recommend you go see this show. It's on at the Vaudeville Theatre in Central London until the 11th of June, 2016.