This weekend a group of friends and I travelled to the famous West End to watch new stage show, ‘Hand To God’. The basic premise is that a teenager becomes possessed by the devil, and all the evil is portrayed through a sock puppet that is permanently on his hand, creating a situation where no one is quite sure if he really is possessed or if the puppet really is the devil.
The show has been described as ‘Sesame Street meets the Exorcist’ and in essence it is exactly that – touching on some very dark and disturbing issues, such as death, demonic possession and peaodophilia in a very light-hearted and silly fashion. It’s a fairly widespread trend to make light of serious issues for comedic effect with the likes of ‘The Book of Mormon’ becoming a theatre sensation doing exactly that, and I believe that Hand to God was aiming for the same result. However, this was not in fact the element that made the show a success – the real star of the show was young actor, Harry Melling (known for his role as Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films). Harry plays his character Jason and also the role of Tyrone the demon puppet and his performance is so good that there are moments when the audience genuinely forgets that he is controlling the puppet that is so viciously attacking him. I should imagine it’s difficult enough to successfully portray a human character on stage, adopting new mannerisms, voice techniques and range of emotions, but to do that well and simultaneously bring a grey sock to life was immensely impressive. It shows real dedication to a role to have clearly worked on puppetry techniques as well as acting techniques in order to do the role justice and he really did just that.
When you think of live entertainment the mind immediately jumps to music, dance and drama, but puppetry is not often on that list. It’s fantastic to see theatres bringing in a surprise and lesser covered performance element into live entertainment – something to ponder this year with 150+ live entertainment venue operators at The LEVEL Summit. Surprise your audiences, they might just like it.