A review by Carmen Nasr for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

The Word is God Season

 

Shakespeare’s Globe presents

 

The God of Soho

 

by Chris Hannan

 

Directed by Raz Shaw

 

Shakespeare's Globe

 

27 August - 30 September 2011


 

A brash and sordid satire on the emptiness and violence at the heart of our celebrity obsessed society, The God of Soho poses many questions about our human predicament. When it comes to answering them however, confusion reigns.

Of all the social and moral predicaments of our age, it is the perilous jaws of celebrity worship engulfing our nation of late, which seems to have us all grieving for the sanctity of our modern culture. And aptly enough Chris Hannan’s new play at The Globe trades in the religious Kings and Queens of the Elizabethans, for the Gods of our times: tabloid celebrities.

The God of Soho is a rampage through a world in crisis, leaving behind it a ghastly slobber of sexual excess, vacant morality and mindless materialism. As the play opens in a neon gilded ‘heaven’, Phil Daniels’ cockney Big God movingly bemoans that ‘there is a lack of loveliness in the world’. His broken hearted daughter Clem, the goddess of love, soon finds this out for herself as she is banished down to earth, landing on the morally bankrupt streets of Soho. With a homeless man for company, Clem (played with a beautiful urgency by the vivacious Iris Roberts) embarks on a search for something ‘sexier than sex’, in an attempt to find some meaning to love and lust.

She stumbles into the world of plastic fantastic reality TV star Natty, an ungodly hybrid of Katie Price, Chantelle Houghton and Cheryl Cole, complete in pink velour tracksuit and faux ‘gangsta’ accent. Natty and her swaggering Northern rock star boyfriend Baz, play out their messy lives on the front pages of the red-tops. With a dangerous mix of sex and violence, Hannan attempts to uncover the inherent aggression in the public’s thirst for gossip. In an example of the playwright’s knack for poetic imagery, Baz describes the paparazzi’s ‘thousand machine guns flashing, as he walks out to face the press, bloody nosed, following a punch-up with Natty. Clem meanwhile obsessively clings on to the drama of this public relationship, as her father Big God, her mother Mrs God and former lover New God fall to earth to pursue her.

With brave dramatic gesture, the play is at times marvellously intelligent and poetic, but Hannan’s writing fails to find a solid coherence in its plot, preventing its dramatic action from constructing any larger meaning. With an abundance of twists and turns, a flowing stream of characters and constantly shifting relationships, it can be hard to keep up with one moment before it fizzles out into the next.

Gusto and punch it certainly does not lack, with regular doses of the hot blooded and carnivalesque as transvestites, dancing girls and an excellent seven piece ska/dub band called King Porter Stomp invade the stage at every opportunity. The second act opens to an ensemble song and dance, the cast crooning the lyrics ‘we are so shit’ in a somewhat obvious display of satirical irony.

Hannah Clark’s design hijacks the Globe’s stage with the aesthetics of commodity, adorned with what Natty describes as ‘authentic reproductions’. A pink neon ‘heaven’ sign shines down on a Dali style lip shaped sofa, a giant Warhol portrait and Roman statues complete, with marble shopping bags. Commanding this set as the brazen ‘goddess of ugly’ Natty, Emma Pierson throws herself wholeheartedly into her professional stage debut and delivers an impressive, vicious performance.

It is clear that Hannan’s play is much more than a straightforward mockery of celebrity culture. Writing about The God of Soho the playwright reminds us that “we tend to dismiss celebrity culture as something trivial’, its ever growing power to dominate our social and commercial values he believes, means ‘it is far from that’. However the lack of structural coherence and an abundance of toilet humour unfortunately obscure any such message from coming through.

 

 
Box Office: 020 7401 9919
www.shakespearesglobe.com
Shakespeare’s Globe
21 New Globe Walk, London, SE1 9DT
Tickets from £5 - £37.50



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