The entire show starts with Tyrone, a talking puppet with a sexy deep voice, questioning our decisions and morals as human-beings. Speaking in the vast space among other inanimate objects floating in mid-air, it is almost as if Tyrone is a superior being compared to us. He knows things we do not even question. That is the moment we knew that Hand to God is going to be a theatrical ride to remember.
Directed by Guy Unsworth, Hand to God is written by Robert Askins and had its debut off-Broadway in 2011 and on Broadway in 2015.
The play is about a troubled teen Jason and his mother Margery trying to cope with the recent death of his father. When Jason is forced to join his mother’s puppet group during Sunday school, he discovers that his sock puppet Tyrone has a life of its own. All hell breaks loose, and everyone is forced to face their deepest darkest secrets.
We were very impressed by the use of the design elements to put this show together. From set to lights to sound, everything was well coordinated and that gave the audience a complete experience to immerse into the story.
The set piece by production designer Susannah Henry, is a simple portrayal of a happy space that seems typical of a children’s classroom. However, this set is anything but ordinary. Filled with imaginative ways of staging the different scenes and cabinets that roll out to surprise you with what is in store, we were so tickled and amazed by the creative use of space and art.
The lighting design by Lim Woan Wen and sound by Lee Yew Jin further manipulated the atmosphere for the audience to truly follow the scenes with no confusion.
With that, it was a complete joy to witness seamless scene changes with no black outs, no additional movements and effortless sensory experiences.
The cast was equally capable and everyone had spot-on comic timing, so no jokes went to waste. Though the performance space can be limiting in terms of size, the actors used the stage to its fullest and had strong presence from start to finish.
Thomas Pang played Jason and Tyrone in a mesmerising way. He served the characters well with demanding vocal switches between the two, especially when a banter is between them. It is completely believable that Tyrone has a life of its own, and that presence of two can be sensed. Gavin Yap as school bully Timothy was funny, cruel and yet so innocent as a character. He threaded that thin line skillfully and brought out a sense of fragility despite his tough exterior. Margery by Janice Koh really surprised us. Daring and a confusing character, it was lovely to see Janice play a woman with ease yet filled with emotional turmoil.
Pastor Greg by Daniel Jenkins and Ann Lek playing Jessica as well as Jolene bounced off energy with the rest of the cast well. Though it was difficult at times to really understand their characters due to lesser stage time, they were enjoyable to watch.
Hand To God proved itself to be a powerful play of hard-hitting truths and funny puns. It was also a surprise that something as simple as sock puppets can make a story interesting and poignant. This play shows that creativity always wins, and this production has shown that we do have quality works in Singapore worth supporting.
Originally written for Popspoken.