Sock Puppet Sex Scene? Show Us Something Shocking: Hand To God Reviewed
You know how you sometimes can't decide between the latest heavy drama and the latest blistering comedy? Well now you don't have to, for they are one and the same.
At its heart, Robert Askins's Hand to God is a harrowing story of a troubled teenage boy whose insecurities erupt through the verbal and physical violence of a split personality disorder, the target often being his mother, a conflicted servant of the church still mourning the death of the boy's father.
But that's just half the story. And chances are you've heard about the other half: the side with the outrageously sweary, controversy-stoking sock puppet. Yes, this is the much-hyped Broadway transfer with the hot and heavy sock puppet sex scene.
The crudely-knitted creature in question is also the split personality disorder in question. Amusingly named Tyrone, it is the crass and abusive alter ego for shy and bullied Jason (Harry Melling), who has made the puppet at a workshop his mother Margery (Janie Dee) runs at their devout Texan church. But when things turn violent, those around Jason believe it to be the work of the devil and start calling for an exorcism.
So it's a story about mental illness, grief, masculinity and the absurdities of religious devotion. But a bloody funny one. Make no mistake: this is a comedy. In fact, the dramatic story that underpins the piece is rather unsatisfying. It's clearly trying to make some pertinent points, but they're obvious and underwhelming — criticising religion might be controversial in the States, but it's hardly going to raise eyebrows over here.
But we shouldn't get too caught up in this side of the story, because, frankly, this isn't why anyone goes to see Moritz von Stuelpnagel's fun and frantically paced production. It's all about the laughs - and there are many of them, most of them in the hands of the superb Melling, who brings Tyrone to life with great skill and shows a comedic range well beyond his role as Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films. Dee is also wonderful as his confused, frustrated mother, and there is excellent support from the rest of the cast.
This isn't a brilliant play by any means. It isn't as clever or profound as it thinks it is, and the leaps in tone feel very uneven, but it is definitely a good laugh. If you just fancy some near-the-knuckle humour, and you've already seen The Book of Mormon a couple of times, this is the one for you.
Hand to God is on at Vaudeville Theatre, 404 Strand, WC2R 0NH until 11 June. Tickets £20-£67.50. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 18 February 2016