Review: Fiery Comedy Drama Is One Wild 90 Minutes

Is God Is, Royal Court Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Mike C
Review: Fiery Comedy Drama Is One Wild 90 Minutes Is God Is, Royal Court Theatre 3
Twins Racine and Anaia (played by Tamara Lawrence and Adelyo Adedayo) in Is God Is. Image: Tristram Kenton

How best to describe Is God Is? A Websterian revenge tragedy where Thelma and Louise meet Quentin Tarantino, and (almost) no one gets out alive.

Once I'd tuned my middle aged ears into the hip-hop dialogue, I stepped on to the helter-skelter, and from that point there's no way out: a one-act 90-minute wild ride that careers, apparently out of control, to a pile up at the bottom. Or so it seems. But Aleshea Harris's taut plot and economical script is in charge all the way, dishing out a few surprises en route, so that a conventional eye-for-an-eye drama mixes it up with rich, dark humour and an anticipatable but nicely handled ending.

Deft staging makes the most of the space in the Jerwood Downstairs. Image: Tristram Kenton

Twins Racine and Anaia (Tamara Lawrence and Adelyo Adedayo, fizzing with inchoate energy) are contacted by the mother they thought long dead: hideously disfigured in a fire that also marred her daughters' looks, she’s on her deathbed and wants, nay commands, that her daughters revenge themselves on the husband who torched her, with Cecilia Noble giving full rein to a pit of long-fomented rage.

The teenagers set about hunting down their errant father and forcing him through the same agony he exposed them to, obeying the maternal command that he should be "dead – REAL DEAD" and anyone around him too. This leads not only to the destruction of their father but also his new family, some of them less deserving of biblical retribution, perhaps…

Is God Is leavens plot holes, such as whether a mother who'd abandoned you decades ago could convince you to go on a murderous rampage, with bleak humour. Image: Tristram Kenton

Largely bleak, Is God Is leavens the awfulness (and some of the plot holes such as whether a mother who’d abandoned you decades ago could convince you to go on a murderous rampage in five minutes of ranting) with bleak humour, the interplay between the twin brothers, the light side of their father's wicked genes, and Scotch's dumbass confusing of the girls (his half-sisters) for strippagrams.

There's also deft staging and setting that makes the most of the space in the Jerwood Downstairs the production has to work with.

But it's the energy that carries it through — streetsmart, unremitting, unwilling to let the audience go. Contained and claustrophobic, it carries you out into the night air of Sloane Square with the faint whiff of burnt flesh and burnt hope in your nostrils, a scent which lingers.

Is God Is, Royal Court Theatre, £12-£45, until 23 October

Last Updated 23 September 2021