It does not seem more than a few days ago that this year's summer at the Globe was starting off, and yet here is the last play in 'The Word is God' season. To round things off, 'The God of Soho' by Chris Hannan is a fitting conclusion because it focuses on the activities of the Gods and their interactions with mortals.
A vibrant sextet, the 'King Porter Stomp', all dressed in white and sporting workmen's boots sprayed gold, kick-off the show. Next stop is 'Heaven' where we discover an odd-looking assembly of Gods. One of them, the goddess of love, called Clem, falls out with the New God – for reasons that are not exactly crystal clear - and ends up leaving Heaven and joining the mortals on the streets of London's Soho. Here she bumps into some homeless people, one of whom – Teresa – is the sister of a B list celebrity called Natty who seems to do little more than pose for the cameras, row with her boyfriend and strut around 'being famous'.There is a rather striking similarity to one of the UK's well-known TV celebrities which cannot be accidental. From thereon in, the story revolves around Natty and her boyfriend, with interjections from the Gods – particularly Mrs God, Big God and the New God.
What really makes this play engagingly funny and enormously entertaining is the deliciously inventive dialogue. For example, speaking about a handbag which seems to attract the attention of almost everyone, Natty says 'It's got that dead princess look'. And street-dweller Eduardo describes agoraphobia as the 'Rolls Royce of mental illness' and the inside of his head as the 'most populous square foot in London'.
Marginally funnier during the first half than the second, 'The God of Soho' has a bizarre kind of feel to it – matching, perhaps, the bizarre attraction of celebrity in our modern world. It has a definite 'end of term' mood and the actors seem to be relishing every moment. Jade Williams's depiction of street girl Tersea is amazingly real, and Emma Pierson perfectly captures the essence of an insecure celebrity who has little more to offer society than outlandish behaviour and a voluptuous figure. And there's exceptionally good support all-round, especially from Richard Clews as Eduardo, who seems to have every mental illness known to medical science.
A word of warning for those of you who are easily shocked. First, human excrement has a significant role in the play and the character's views of themselves. Mrs God wears a colostomy bag and has a severe case of flatulence, which causes much distress for her husband, Big God. Natty endlessly describes herself as 'shit' and says the Queen should give her a “shithood”. There's also a very funny sex scene which, though tastefully orchestrated, lasts for what appears to be an eternity. And one member of the audience shrieked, rather surprisingly, “Oh my God” when Clem disrobed near the end.
I didn't laugh quite so much as I did watching the National's 'One Man, Two Guvnors', but the two comedies do have much in common both in terms of the language and the striking characterisations and situations which they describe. Though I hate comparisons, I think 'Guvnors' is just the better of the two, but 'The God of Soho' runs a very keen second, and is certainly terrific comedy and immense fun.