There is something rather incongruous about a modern-day chav in a pink velour tracksuit holding court at a reconstruction of a 16th century theatre. But that is what’s currently happening at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Amid the marble pillars, Natty rules the roost. She is an example of that modern phenomenon, famous simply for being famous. Perhaps a star of a Big Brother-style TV programme, or maybe straight out of The Only Way Is Essex, Natty lives in a mock-tudor (appropriately enough) mansion where she preens and struts, occasionally walloping her boyfriend or lording it over her scruffy sister Teresa, who hasn’t had the looks or opportunity to lift herself out of the background they both come from.
Into this situation comes Clem, a former goddess from heaven on a soul-searching mission. Concerned, somewhat reluctantly, for her welfare down on Earth, her parents – Big God and Mrs God – follow her, watching as she becomes entangled with the lives of Natty and sometime boyfriend Baz, and mentally disturbed homeless man Edwardo, on the streets of Soho.
It seems almost sacrilege to say (again, appropriate in the circumstances) but The God Of Soho is something like an ultra modern take on classic film It’s A Wonderful Life. But unlike self-assured and all-knowing angel Clarence, the heaven-dwellers in this piece seem just as mixed up as their earthly counterparts.
Celebrity, class, money, death, image, talent; all these themes are touched on by author Chris Hannan, who packages it up in a dramatic orgy of sex, song and sweary language. Phil Daniels is a grubby, uncouth God, accompanied by his Mrs (Miranda Foster), an Essex girl grown up and gone off, all perma-tan, bouffant hair and too-skimpy clothes. As Natty, Emma Pierson embodies all that we love and hate about the talentless celebrity, commanding the Globe stage in her pink stilettos and hair extensions.
What it all means is not always clear, and with limited staging a lot of imagination is needed to visualise some of the plot points. But Hannan’s play has some funny moments, some weird moments and some downright surreal moments. Whatever else it may be, it’s certainly an experience.