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Review: An Act of God (The Vaults)

Zoe Lyons takes on the Almighty in David Javerbaum's production this winter

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Tom Bowen, Zoe Lyons and Matt Tedford in An Act of God
© Geraint Lewis

So, God is a woman. Or at least She is in this London premiere of David Javerbaum's sparky spin-off of his hugely popular The Tweet of God Twitter account and satirical celestial memoir The Last Testament. The Almighty, taking the gloriously laconic comedian Zoe Lyons as avatar, is here to put us right on numerous topics and to update and clarify the Ten Commandments. With Archangels Gabriel (Tom Bowen, swaggering in like a boyband escapee) and Michael (a sweetly querulous Matt Tedford) in tow, God is swift to inform us that the Vaults isn't Her venue of choice... She had been hoping for The Palladium. What follows is a monologue-with-interruptions that occasionally rambles but is consistently watchable, and sometimes deliciously witty.

Lyons, with her huge expressive eyes and laidback but razor-sharp delivery, is a real treat, balancing a chummy likability with moments of authentic power as God periodically gets riled up. The fact that the Broadway production originally starred The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons, then was revived with Will and Grace star Sean Hayes, suggests that Javerbaum isn't precious about adapting his work to suit whoever the current star is, and this London iteration has clearly been tailored to Ms Lyons' considerable talents. There's even a section where this God offers us Brits a "Brexorcism" complete with holy water, and some stinging criticism of our current crop of politicians.

Benji Sperring's nimble staging boasts an array of impressive magic tricks courtesy of Scott Penrose, including a last minute illusion that genuinely defies explanation. Although it light-heartedly tackles some big themes and features an apocalyptic finale, the eighty minute evening as a whole still feels too flippant to be really engrossing, despite the magnetism of the central performer. The moments where raucous humour gives way to authentically darker material could be more subtly orchestrated, and the Archangels feel underused, although Tedford's Michael has a very funny rebellious meltdown late in the show.

Tim Shortall's glossy set, with heavenly, fairy-lit clouds atop a huge silk-sheeted bed, is attractive and Yvonne Gilbert provides some intermittently fearsome sound effects. Stand-up comedy, audience interaction and the deconstruction of religious dogma may make for strange bedfellows, but Javerbaum's more inspired zingers and Lyons' sheer magnetism should ensure that this off-beat but flimsy offering makes a lot of people very happy over the festive period.

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