The God of Soho, Shakespeare's Globe, London
Monday 05 September 2011
Chris Hannan has revealed that, when Dominic Dromgoole invited him to write a play for Shakespeare's Globe, he spent a couple of years resisting.
Having seen The God of Soho, I fear it might have been wiser for him to go on holding out. The piece kicks off from the promising premise that the campily dysfunctional deities in a kitsch classical Heaven are starting to lose a sense of their own reality and therefore plummet to a world – filthy Soho and millionaire's Essex – where they collide with the trashy celebs who are their contemporary counterparts. Plenty of potential here for a hectic Aristophanic romp and hi-jinks that wittily question what it is we now worship and why.
So it saddens me to report that both the play and Raz Shaw's production feel distinctly under-powered and fail to animate what Dromgoole has aptly described as the Globe's carnival space. Periodic injections of punchy music from a ska-based band and the occasional explosion of streamers and screamers can't disguise the inertness of the material. Part of the problem is that the plot is so lacking in comic drive. Rejected by her paramour and banished to earth, Clem, the Goddess of Love (Iris Roberts) hunts for a different mode of being and fixes on reality TV star Natty whose tacky glamour and narcissistic self-loathing are brought to vibrantly vulgar life by the brilliant Emma Pierson.
Natty's relationship with her rock- star boyfriend Baz (Edward Hogg) is fought out on the front pages of the tabloids to whom (in order to bring her to her senses) the boyfriend plans to pass on the iconic Hermes Kelly 1950s handbag in which keeps her sex toys. But though it does the rounds, this inflammatory object never becomes the farcical device whereby the different strands of the play can be forced into chaotic interaction.
There are some surges of offbeat lyricism in the script and the odd scene that really works such as the one where Phil Daniels's mentally imploding Big God talks to a homeless Soho down-and-out who has always fancied himself "celebrity mental". But this is a worrying new turn: "the God Delusion," he exclaims. What stays with you most, though, is the evening's peculiar emphasis on excrement – from Natty's song "I'm So Shit" to the heart-shaped colostomy bag worn (and used) by Big God's wife and a novel twist, as her spouse implies, to the notion of an outside loo.
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