A week ago I was fortunate enough to be offered a ticket to the final night of Chris Hannan’s The God Of Soho at the Globe Theatre. I had heard mixed reviews and went without expectation, and to some fantastic seats.
Clem, the goddess of Love, has a tiff with New God, her boyfriend, in the shiny, Postmodern, Soho-writ-large Heaven of white patent leather jackets and studs. She goes to Earth (arriving in ‘actual’ Soho) in search of raunchier sex that doesn’t involve the ‘certain items’ that New God seems to require. He follows her down almost immediately (perhaps a little too fast?), fitting in as a wine salesman, who sells to the chef of celebrity-for-nothing Natty and her pretentious, but rather likeable rockstar boyfriend Baz, who also fight (throughout, in fact) causing him to spitefully abandon her bag of sex toys – which is found, surprise surprise, by Clem…
Between Heaven and Earth, which is utterly debased, the play dips and dives as the various characters undergo changes of attitude, and try different (onstage) bedroom antics to get back on track. Iris Roberts, who plays Clem, is very convincing as both a free spirit and a girl craving love. Edward Hogg as rockstar Baz, and Emma Pierson as Natty play equally admirable parts, and their charisma carries some of the play’s lesser performances.
Sadly this could not disguise the play’s major fault; it just didn’t seem as though it was quite sure what it was about. It struggled to find balance between farce, which the settings and costumes lent towards, and a comedic play that could still carry a message. On one hand, the outlandish transvestite deity, the Queen of the Dogs giving advice about herself as a young ‘woman’, the perpetually farting Mrs God, and, who could forget, the full-cast musical number “We Are So Shit”. On the other, Teresa, Natty’s homeless and apparently alcoholic sister dousing herself in spirit and threatening to set light before an extended monologue on the miserable state of her existence.
It was clear why the Globe had chosen to put it on. It was certainly Shakespearian in its gags and metatheatricality, and certainly got laughs; it had a strong female lead buzzing about like a modern day Rosalind, mediating between the play’s various lovesick characters; it was bold and colourful, and had a rocking backing band, King Porter Stomp, that punctuated scenes like a chorus; but it did not have any clear message – no point to it – except a few worn-out words about the mutability of love and its accompanying torments.
It’s a shame. There’s a scene in the second half, in which a mentally fragile ‘Big God’ breaks down, as he is ignored by a schizophrenic tramps ‘of 319 illnesses’, who believes he is succumbing to: “Uh Oh - The God Delusion!” It felt as though Hannan really wanted to write this sort of absurd tragicomedy, this Beckettian meeting of two totally incompatible souls, but had lost his way somewhere in the attempts to make it accessible to the tourists through outlandish shouting and cheap tricks. And so while he managed to keep the script going with a joke-a-minute, the play does not clearly resolve, leaving the audience with an unsettling feeling that they are as lost as the gods themselves, hoping but struggling to find any meaning to desperately cling onto.