Julian Eaves reviews An Act Of God starring Zoe Lyons currently playing at The Vaults in London.
The Vaults London
29th November 2019
This is a jolly, amusing, occasionally laugh-out-loud comic turn for Zoe Lyons – a comic turn if there ever was one – who makes the most of a script trawling through the best-known stories from The Bible. The author of this spoof re-telling of scripture, TV gag-writer, David Javerbaum, had a hit with this 80-minute show in the God-fearing US of A: for the English divinity market, he has revamped it, we are told, to suit ‘local’ pieties. And so, there are a fair few up-to-the-minute additional quips, dragging in the latest vibes from the news and current affairs. It’s light, it’s frivolous, and it can’t really do much harm on the one hand, and on the other, it enables you to laugh a fair old bit, which is certainly a good thing. Apart from that, it’s hard to see why it’s been put on, but if you set aside any other expectations you may have, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be entertaining enough.
Lyons, dressed in white, silken jim-jams, is here a ‘God-impersonator’, who begins by announcing herself as a lesbian, and with a goodly few knowing looks ensures she is preaching to the converted. She is certainly doing that. There is nothing mainstream either in the venue or the content; you have to be keen on radical, left-field chic to brave the decaying, dank space formed by the vaults that hold up Waterloo Station, and to accept the creaking, frowzy seating that feels like it was rescued from a demolished old cinema; and you have to be of a certain predisposition, I’d say, to welcome the chirpy but hardly surprising ‘re-writing’ of the Good Book. There’s even a nod to ‘The Book of Mormon’ here; possibly a bit of a risk, since it just serves to remind you that that show has at least some better tunes.
Undeterred, Benji Sperring directs with consummate skill, keeping Lyons on the move even though there’s precious little actual ‘action’ in the entire piece: he spins quite a web of dissimulation, tricking us into thinking this is all going someplace, while – in fact – it is just a list of 10 ‘new’ commandments. And that’s pretty much that. So, roughly 7 minutes per commandment, allowing for some introductory padding at the start. Lyons’ charm is considerable, and she nearly manages to convince you there is more to the show than that. Nearly.
Well, there is – technically – more. Two extras – archangels Muscles and Camp – have a little bit to do in feeding lines to our Zoe; they are similarly clad in white: figure-hugging lycra for Tom Bowen’s athletic, pelvis-gyrating Essex boy (with a handsome face and a sharp haircut); looser, fuller folds for Matt Tedford’s mincing Northerner (who is the one who gets to ‘mingle’ with the crowd and read our sacrilegious thoughts). Apart from that, they’re sadly under-used.
Nevertheless, Clancy Flynn’s gorgeous lighting distracts you from noticing this too much, as she makes Tim Shortall’s set look its very best, even though it’s pretty much just an over-the-top tacky master double-bed, of the kind you see in showrooms on Green Lanes, surmounted by a flouncy, twinkling cloud. There are some people who would think this the latest word in aspirational style, but I’m not sure they’ll be attending any of the performances here. Yvonne Gilbert fills in any other gaps with her sound design. And that’s your lot.
Overall, there are worse things that can happen to you at Christmas than sitting through a show like this. It won’t change your life, but you won’t hate yourself for going.