Hand to God is a brilliantly funny play with award winning status. The play features themes on religion, mental health, and demonic puppets – with many obvious links to Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon. Some reviews state that the show is very shocking and not for the easily offended, which is true, but personally I did not feel that it was overly outrageous – I just found it really funny.
The plot focuses around a family grieving the loss of a father and husband. Mother and son seek comfort from a church where the demonic puppet Tyrone comes to life. Harry Melling gives an extraordinary performance as Jason and hand puppet Tyrone, (I enjoyed it so much that I have added it to my all time favourites list). Melling’s portrayal gave me goosebumps as he flawlessly switched between Jason and Tyrone, convincingly making Tyrone a separate entity from himself. The character Jason is immediately likeable as you empathise with the loss of his father, but Melling’s characterisation of the awkward teen is completely convincing; then as he transitions into the demonic puppet, the difference in character is staggering – the physicality of the puppet is totally lifelike. The key element for me was the question of whether Tyrone really was a possessed puppet or whether he was a personification and coping mechanism for Jason’s grief – this made for a truly insightful performance.
Janie Dee as Margery – Jason’s mother – portrays the character fabulously as a widow trying to find her feet after her husband’s death. Her development of her no-nonsense demeanour throughout the show is very funny as she loses her inhibitions. Kevin Mains as delinquent teen Timothy is extremely convincing and hysterical as he attempts to seduce Margery – their scenes together had me in stitches. Neil Parson as Pastor Greg is brilliant casting as he struggles to gain the affections of Margery. Finally, Jemima Rooper gives a heartwarming performance as Jessica – the puppet sex is terrific.
There wasn’t a thing I did not like about the play, it kept me on my toes throughout as the plot became more obscene and dramatic; until the final scene which was surprising and emotional. Hand to God is a touching play with underlying motives. Although it is a comedy with many great laughs, the story is meaningful and it raises many potent questions on human nature. Prepare to feel emotionally drained (in a good way) and to soothe your aching face muscles from laughing so much.