This darkly funny comedy reveals the consequences if we let the voices in our heads take over our actions in an effective and chilling way.
‘Sesame Street meets the Exorcist’ is how the New Yorker described Robert Askin’s play and Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s production. After watching it – it is difficult to think of a more apt description for this chilling and powerful production.
The story begins with Margery (Janie Dee) and Jason (Harry Melling) trying to cope with the loss of a husband and father. To do so, Margery believes that hand puppets will help people express themselves and their emotions – but one hand puppet by the name of Tyrone takes things a bit far.
Throw in Pastor Greg (Neil Pearson), a girl called Jessica (Jemima Rooper) and a school bully by the name of Timothy (Kevin Mains) and the audience is given a production that takes a close look at our emotions and how we use them to handle our attitudes towards others.
At the heart of the story is Jason, whose hand puppet called Tyrone causes chaos and mayhem – almost the devil within Jason – a sweet if naive boy whose character is soon taken over by Tyrone. This is magnificently brought to life by Harry Melling who is constantly called upon to switch characters in the blink of an eye, with great energy and sense of timing. The scene in his bedroom and the ‘conversation’ that he has with Tyrone is one of the most hilarious but equally chilling scenes performed on stage this year so far.
But Melling is more than amply supported by strong performances from the rest of the cast. Janie Dee as Jason’s mother trying to find her way after the death of her husband adds a rawness to her performance that makes the audience see past her almost selfish attitude towards Jason. Meanwhile Kevin Mains is the cocky but ultimately vulnerable Timothy, while Neil Pearson tries his best to help Jason and Margery through their grief and the sweet and charming performance of Jemima Rooper who genuinely wants to help Jason.
Everything about the production is slick and smooth, with the set changes happening quickly and consistently to make sure that not a moment is lost. What is also effective in Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s production is that there is still a sense of vulnerability and emotion beneath the aggression that keeps the audience gripped throughout.
However, as sharp as the production is, it isn’t really a must see if you are easily offended – plenty of swear words are used but to very little effect that in a way diminishes the power of the story. It also seems as though some of the conversations that have been written are slightly stilted, which although could add to the awkwardness and sinister nature of the play, but at times don’t flow well.
But despite this, it is an intelligent, angry and hilarious piece of work that will appeal to people with a certain sense of humour – nicely balanced with a slice of drama that has audiences hooked from beginning to end.
Hand to God runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until the 11th June. To book tickets visit: Ticketmaster.co.uk, Discount Theatre.com, Last Minute.com,Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.