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The God of Soho

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Chris Hannan’s new play is a riotous comedy of gods and mortals with much bad behaviour and serious trashing of the celebrity culture; a movie-land character named after the bilious American movie critic Joe Queenan; and a brilliant Brighton ska, dub and hip hop band called King Porter Stomp.

It is written in a heightened, lightly learned, scatological style that lifts the show to the edge of a mythical, classical plane – something like a mixture of Brecht, Alfred Jarry, Plautus and Ben Jonson – then tips the characters into a nightmarish underworld of Soho streets and Essex hinterland, where the visual aesthetic is one of Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn,” Allen Jones’s red lips sofa and other examples of “authentic reproduction,” including the film stars.

Big God and Mrs God – that’s a scurrilous and vocally lurid Phil Daniels accompanied by Miranda Foster as a divine fake with so much surgery she breaks wind constantly and wears a colostomy bag like a designer trophy – lose their daughter Clem (Iris Roberts) to a search on earth for something sexier than sex.

What she finds, of course, is a Hades of hedonism where a bird-brained model and her Sapphic publicist play the metropolitan media scene with garish party-going stunts and absurd charity binges, including one for the limbless (“Who’s going to stand up for them if I don’t?”).

She is stalked by the New God who must learn how to love her in a sharp white suit (a performance of incisive elegance by William Mannering) and confronted not just by the jaw-dropping double act of Emma Pierson and Beatriz Romilly as Natty the model and PR Stan, but also by the model’s rock star, rutting boyfriend (Edward Hogg), her homeless druggie sister (Jade Williams), a bipolar tramp well versed in the God delusion and explicit scenes of carnival and immolation.

Raz Shaw’s vibrant, sensational production is a catalogue of sex, strutting and fetishism, but it never loses sight of an exemplary purpose while indulging the dark side of our fantasy life. Even the brief flash of nudity is beautiful, and the cheerless coition scene between Natty and Baz very funny.

In all, this is another significant night for the Globe and Dominic Dromgoole’s campaign to push contemporary playwriting towards a new Jacobean level of energy and theatrical gesture. And the terrific music of Alex Silverman and glorious design of Hannah Clark are backing him all the way.


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