Sunday, 21 February 2016

Review Hand To God

Hand To God
By Robert Askins

The Rocky Puppet Show

First of all, there may be those readers who believe wrongly TLT is an online sock puppet. And a sock puppet with its own sock puppet in the shape of her little equally opinionated limo.

Let us clear this up once and for all. We enjoyed this show, Hand To God, though we are definitely not sock puppets. We are a human being and a motorised vehicle with a birth certificate and a current MOT.

And we are not connected in any way shape or form with: Hand To God anti-hero Tyrone, a sock puppet masterfully manipulated by Harry Melling as troubled teen Jason; sock puppets in general; writer cum bartender Robert Askins; director Moritz Von Stuelpnagel or designer Beowulf Boritt.

But we did wonder whether the spectacularly-named Moritz Von Stuelpnagel or Beowulf Boritt really existed from birth, especially when widow Margery (Janie Dee) rips out pages of patriarchal family trees from the bible with relish.

But a quick search of that new bible, the internet, reveals a real Moritz Von Stuelpnagel, an educator as well as director. And, if related, a Von Stuelpnagel family with a serious history.

OK, so it looks as though Askins with his Ubu Roi in Rural Texas romp wasn't talking to his own sock puppet director in rehearsals. But Beowulf Boritt? Surely ... But yes, here's another guy with a serious family history.

Back to the Vaudeville. Pastor Greg (Neil Pearson) asks Margery to put on a performance to showcase the work of the sock puppet ministry (oh ye of little faith, these actually exist) attended by her introvert son Jason, local juvenile delinquent Timmy (Kevin Mains) and girl-next-door Jessica (Jemima Rooper) on whom Jason has a crush. But Jason also has his life taken over by his xxhis own handxx demonic sock puppet, Tyrone ...

TLT and jalopy did wonder if Tyrone had appeared as a cartoon character on the small screen in a cartoon sitcom, it would have been seen as just another of the South Park/Family Guy genre, even with, or perhaps because of, the puppet-on-puppet sex (did we mention that?!).  But theatre is its own powerful visceral medium with a different impact on its audience. And Jessica's reaction to Jason's devilish appendage on stage is - strangely innocent and resourceful - and very funny.

Some of the story threads do feel as stitched together as a character's torn off ear (maybe we're all turning into patched-up puppets?!!!) and of dubious taste, yet this is the gospel according to Tyrone, not Saint Jason, Timothy, Gregory or Margery. 

Give yourself up to the truly mesmerizing performance of Melling as Jason and sock puppet Tyrone  without too much detailed analysis and you'll understand why it's proved an almost cathartic experience for audiences. 

Oh, and Beowulf Boritt's revolving sets, complete with a little limo no less (what's not to like?!), also keep this fable fast and frantic with the puppets designed by Marte Johanne Ekhougen in this hellishly funny sermon.

So Texas may be famous for its lone star, oil wells, the Bush family, cattle, the assassination of a president, cowboys, as the buckle of the bible belt, Enron and the burrito. But it can now can add Tyrone the devil sock puppet to its Wikipedia list. Aw shucks, Hand To God's not perfect, but humans ain't perfect neither, so it's a yee haw amber/green light from us.

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