As unexpected as it sounds, the show about a satanic sock puppet on the arm of an unstable child leaves you laughing one second and unsettled the next. From the wild mind of writer Robert Askins, the Broadway transfer Hand To God at the Vaudeville Theatre is a rollercoaster from start to finish, one which you’re sure to enjoy.
The basis of the show is very simple – a church group ran by religious mother Margery (Janie Dee), attended by her son Jason (Harry Melling), girl-next-door Jessica (Jemima Rooper), and class bully Timothy (Kevin Mains). Jason’s sock puppet Tyrone is introduced and chaos ensues. Set in Texas, Hand to God plays to the religious southern American stereotype. Jemima Rooper and Kevin Mains as Jessica and Timothy spring off each other wonderfully – their wildly different characters are oddly compatible and a joy to watch. However, the star of the show is Harry Melling as Jason and Tyrone. Melling is refreshing to watch as he bounces seamlessly between the sweet Jason, who will do anything to please his mother, and the satanic sock puppet Tyrone, hell bent on making trouble for the group.
As for the style of the show, writer Robert Askins has made it so you are able view the piece as purely dark humour, however underneath the vulgar and gory comedy is a piece of theatre about the psychological repercussions of the death of a loved one and human nature in tough situations. We see this the most through Janie Dee’s wonderful performance as Margery, who starts off the play as a Bible-loving, clean cut loving mother of Jason, and descends into sexual deviance and selfish sin. Furthermore, Hand To God leaves you wondering whether it’s the puppet itself that is possessed or rather Jason, and the lifeless sock on his hand is a way of relaying his true emotions while hiding behind an inanimate object. That all being said, the heaviness of the subject matter can easily be disregarded and the show just be seen as a comedic night out at the theatre.
On the other hand, I can understand how Hand To God is not for everyone. Gory, vulgar and unsettling, it is not for audiences wanting a pure, light-hearted comedy. It combines tropes from other shows, such as the complex characters from Little Shop of Horrors, the comedic style of The Book of Mormon and some scenes heavily influenced from Avenue Q when it comes to Tyrone. With incredible performances from the cast and creative team, Hand To God is a must see for anyone who is a fan of dark comedy.
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