Tuesday 5 April 2016

Hand to God - Review

Vaudeville Theatre


Written by Robert Askins
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel

Harry Melling

Hand to God is the cleverly written story of Jason (played by Harry Melling of Harry Potter fame) a quiet and awkward teenager, struggling to deal with his father's death six months prior.

Through his mother's church Puppet Therapy class, Jason discovers a friend in Tyrone, his sock-puppet, or so it would seem. As the story progresses Tyrone begins to act on Jason’s real thoughts and desires with wild abandon, from flirting with his classroom crush (Jemima Rooper) to standing up to and viciously attacking his bully (Kevin Mains), having sex and generally wreaking havoc. It has been suggested that Tyrone is the manifestation of a demonic possession and that dark forces are at work. More realistically though, the extreme puppetry touches upon the issues and mental struggles that Jason faces in dealing with his grief and the lack of support from his Janie Dee as his mother - who herself ends up having a steamy, slightly dominatrix-like affair with his bully in the church bathroom.

Mellings' performances of Jason and Tyrone are remarkable. From portraying the quiet and shy Jason one second, whilst the next giving an entirely juxtaposed performance of Tyrone complete with expert puppeteering, shows the makings of a very talented actor. 

It’s not just the performances that impress. Robert Askins' book is clever, crude and full of witty one-liners that make the audience cringe, cry out and laugh all at once. Beowulf Boritt's set is another highlight, detailed with clean and swift scene changes, it adds to making the show crisp and well put together.

In a story that some may find offensive, Hand to God is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Its quick humour, extensive set and intelligent subtext certainly will however make a big impression. Hand to God is an intriguing and relevant comedy with a heart of darkness that makes for excellent modern theatre.

Runs until 11th June
Reviewed by Charlotte Darcy

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