First published in The Times, Saturday August 19 2017
Richard Marsh, the writer and performance poet, rode a wave of acclaim with his 2012 fringe show Dirty Great Love Story, created in collaboration with Katie Bonna. The two-hander, which has since enjoyed West End and Off-Broadway runs, chronicles, with startling energy and insight, the ups-and-downs of a love affair that blossoms out of a one-night stand.
At first glance, Marsh’s latest comedy seems set to tread the same romantic territory, albeit a few years down the line. We discover the protagonist, Todd in a scene of domestic blitz, tending to his wife as she recovers from a nasty hangover. At this point the playwright moves an unexpectedly large chess piece into play in the form of God. She (for God is a woman!) is pugnacious, self-deprecating and happy to admit her limitations. She has chosen Todd to be her new Messiah: the imperfect poster boy for a user-friendly religion.
In the manner of Life of Brian, Marsh uses his incredible premise to take a light-hearted look at faith, good intentions and the search for the numinous in a secular society. His signature style, which combines first-person narrative with bursts of vivid rhyme, still feels fresh and audacious. Marsh’s fellow spoken word artist, Sara Hirsch, adds further spark in her role as God.
Sadly, the writer’s sensitivity and creativity can’t do much to save a show whose substance never rises much above the level of sitcom. Instead of grappling with the one really interesting idea in the piece, namely the question of whether a person with religious beliefs can sustain a deep relationship with an atheist, Marsh opts instead to train Todd’s powers on domestic trifles such as conjuring up extra bacon as part of his wife’s hangover cure.
The play slips away at the end into a redundant monologue, delivered by Hirsch, which is presumably meant to be life affirming but merely reinforces the superficiality and lack of unsettling ideas in the script.