Todd – an atheist, a layabout, realises he can hear the voice of God. She appears to him during a hangover and flies a bacon butty in through the window. Then she tells him to start his own religion. He tries, and takes his wife and father-in-law along for the ride.
So far so novel in this bout of fictional religious dabbling. Richard Marsh, Fringe First winner for Dirty Great Love Story (which has seen nothing less than West End success), lays out the saga of Todd and his deistic friend from their initial encounter through to a suddenly rather dramatic conclusion. It’s a glib encounter, told with some matter of fact puns and easy gags. It’s also stuffed with enough internal rhyme to satisfying a taxidermist’s poetry collection. We see Todd’s initial forays, some unconvincing miracles and fruitless street preaching. For Todd (and also perhaps us as an audience), it all feels rather ineffectual.
There’s quaint charm here. Nothing is too offensive and nothing seems to be at stake. Marsh and Sarah Hirsch, who assumes the mantle of God, bounce off one another as they see through this new plan. This is deistic theorising for West Londoners, where sleeping on the sofa can become the worst outcome. Emotional punch is hard to find, though sometimes, particularly in the context of Todd’s wife Helen, it does come.
Given the completely unexpected and loosely explained curveballs at the end, the show remains entirely unconvincing. It’s hard to work out whether or not Marsh wants to say anything in particular through the show, and if so then it’s also hard to state what exactly that is. For the most part it saunters along, cracking one liners to tickle the audience while musing on God’s general failings and incapacity to be all-good or all-powerful. Not particularly revelatory.
Direction feels uninspired – Marsh literally walks around in circles to demarcate time or distance passing. It can be cringe-inducing to watch, especially when done with so little conviction. The show is a pleasant enough use of a Fringe afternoon, and never becomes inoffensive. If anything it plays it all too safe. It does for discursive theatre what Songs of Praise does for choral music – no one can fault its existence, but it isn’t pushing the boat anywhere. There are certainly more interesting, revelatory shows, even in the same venue.