Described as Sesame Street meets The Exorcist, the irreverent puppet comedy HAND OF GOD took Broadway by storm last year, earning five Tony Nominations, including Best New Play. Robert Askin’s irreligious, satanic hand puppet hit has now transferred to the West End and possessed the Vaudeville Theatre. The London website sums up the plot. One dead father. One messed up family. One girl who wants help. One school bully who always gets his own way. One out of control hand puppet. Recently widowed Margery (Janie Dee) with a penchant for rough sex is encouraged by the randy minister Pastor Greg (Neil Pearson) to run a Christian puppetry workshop-The Christketeers – to spread the gospel in Cypress,Texas. It’s members of which include her son Jason (Harry Melling), the strange girl next door, Jessica (Jemima Rooper) who Jason has a crush on and neighbourhood troublemaker Timmy (Kevin Mains). Enter Tyrone, Jason’s devil-doll that acquires a separate identity turning into a foul-mouthed, unruly sock puppet who believes he’s Satan and takes possession of Jason’s left hand.
“You want the Devil? I’ll give you The Devil”, as his polycotton head spins 360 degrees.
As you could imagine, an interesting collection of characters to meet at the stage door to get my sketch signed. The hand of God had a bit to do with it. This is the second drawing I did. The first succumbed to the elements. A week back,as I was sheltering under some historical edifice and sorting sketches for the impending stalk, a gust of wind transported a few of them into the only muddy puddle within London’s Square Mile. HAND TO GOD was one of them. This replacement was subjected to a few sprinkles on Saturday, as I waited at the Vaudeville. Thankfully the cast were much nicer than the weather and nothing like their stage personae. Harry even left Tyrone in the dressing room and signed with his non-possessed hand. God knows what Tyrone would do with a sharpie!
One of the nicest people in ‘the business’ is 32 year old British actress Jemima Rooper. She apparently wrote “I want to act” in lipstick on her bed at the age of nine, so got an agent and had her first professional role in the 1993 film The Higher Mortals. Three years later she was George – a regular cast member in Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five while still at school. Her spirited approach to her acting may have been due to being an only child. She just wanted to “play imaginary games… dress up and be weird”.
Her busy career proves it’s no dead end job, but she has ventured into the afterlife for a few roles. She played the loveable lesbian ghost Thelma Bates in Sky’s occult-themed drama Hex for two seasons 2004-2005 and the mythological monster Medusa in the TV series Atlantis last year.
Currently she is in Blythe Spirit alongside theatre icon Dame Angela Lansbury during its run at London’s Gielgud Theatre. Playing the annoying and temperamental deceased first wife Elvira, Jemima is conjured on stage each performance by Angel’s Madame Arcati’s wayward seance.
I caught up with her between shows on Saturday as she floated out to get some tea. She’s always in high spirits and has was more than happy to sign the sketches.
One Man, Two Guvnors opened at London’s National Theatre in 2011. Written by Richard Bean and directed by Sir Nicholas Hytner it is a British adaption of The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni (1743) and set in 1963 Brighton.
It transferred to the Adelphi Theatre in November 2011, where James Corden, Oliver Chris and Jemima Rooper signed my sketch. After closing in February 2012, it premiered on Broadway’s Great White Way at the Music Box Theatre until September.
The play was nominated for seven Tony Awards, with James winning for Best Actor.