When did something as wrong as watching a teenage boy express his emotions.. with the aid of a sock… become so right? When Tony Nominated HAND TO GOD hit the West End, thats when! This hilariously dark portrayal of a young adult’s attempt to process the world around him has received mixed reviews since it transferred from New York to the Vaudeville Theatre earlier this year. It’s safe to say that if you’ve avoided The Book of Mormon on religious or moral grounds then this probably isn’t the show for you, but if you take a chance on this relatively unheralded play, you’re in for an absolute treat.
Focusing on the life of troubled teen Jason in modern-day America, HAND TO GOD picks up a year after Jason’s father has passed away from a heart attack. Through the religious puppetry club at his church (run by his equally emotionally repressed Mother) Jason finds a way to let his darker side out, channeled through his new puppet friend Tyrone.
There are stellar performances from the whole cast who are all well-known and respected in the world of stage and screen – Neil Pearson, Janie Dee, Jemima Rooper and Kevin Mains all raise the bar in this tight nit ensemble act – but the standout surprise here is by far Harry Melling as Jason. Best know for playing Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter franchise, HAND TO GOD gives Melling his best vehicle yet to well and truly shake off the shackles of ‘child star’, in a similar way that Equus famously offered his co-star Daniel Radcliffe an opportunity to become an adult in the public eye.
HAND TO GOD shows off Melling’s perhaps lesser-appreciated skills in puppetry, comic timing, versatility and even vocal talents in a well-written, tight knit script by Robert Askins. Some may accuse Askins of gratuitous use of bad language and coarse humour to hook in a younger crowd, but it does not feel out of place here in a show that, for all its darkness and satirical humour, has a real heart. Complimented by a beautiful set designed by Beowulf Boritt and a sound track reminiscent of the hard-core bible belt of Middle America, Moritz Von Stuelpnagel’s production is a refreshing addition to the West End’s line-up.
Though I saw the show on a Monday, typically a quieter day for the West End, it was still disappointing to see the house less than half full. Hopefully the London audience will take a chance on something new and challenge their perceptions of what ‘West End’ is traditionally known for.
You may think this show is just about puppets and God, but there’s so much more to it than that – and let’s be honest, there’s a little bit of the Devil in us all… let out your inner Tyrone and take him with you to the Vaudeville to catch this innovative show while you can.
HAND TO GOD
Until Saturday 11th June 2016
Monday – Saturday 7:30pm
Wednesday and Saturday matinees 2:30pm
£25.00 – £52.50
0330 333 4814