Home » Reviews » Off West End » God/Head, Ovalhouse Theatre

God/Head, Ovalhouse Theatre

Chris Goode
Directed by Wendy Hubbard
Pros: An incredibly intelligent and well-written show, excellently executed, genuinely fascinating and really makes you think. 
Cons: Perhaps easy to zone out if one is in the wrong mindset, not for everyone.
Our Verdict: If you want a thought-provoking show with a great script, then don’t miss this.
Courtesy of Ovalhouse Theatre
A discussion about the nature of God and the reality of religious experience isn’t necessarily my perfect idea of a Friday night out. By nature, I’d rather drink myself into a catatonic stupor after an exhausting day’s work than subject myself to a lecture on the nature of God. As a virulent atheist who hates nothing more than the circular debates about God, who has had ‘that argument’ with his religious friends countless times before, and who is apprehensive to even broach the subject, I must say that I arrived at the Ovalhouse in Kennington wondering quite what I managed to get myself into.
Well, it didn’t take long for me to realise that this show would be something very different from what I had imagined. Far from being preachy and condescending, this is a performance which is remarkable in its honesty, sincerity and intelligence. Within minutes of the start, the author/performer introduces himself and his technician. Then he introduces his guest, from the audience. This will be someone different each day, a friend or acquaintance of his who will join him onstage and help him perform his piece. Instantly the fourth wall is demolished. This is not so much a traditional play, rather a discussion. Sometimes scripted, sometimes not, but always honest in the sense that nothing is hidden. This is an integral part of Goode’s strategy to steer his production away from the evangelical. This is not a discussion about Christianity, Atheism, Islam or Judaism. This is not a debate about Science vs Faith. It is a truly fascinating and refreshing exploration about the human psyche.
The performance is composed of a sequence of discussions, monologues and musical ‘breaths’. The plot revolves around a very simple event in the author’s life. One day, on the way home from the shops, the writer – an atheist himself – has a momentary but overwhelming sensation of being in the presence of God. In between conversations with his guest about life-changing moments of their own, he revisits this episode, and subsequent ones, each time sharing more about the context of his revelation. The plays he was writing, the bouts of depression, the music he was listening to, his conversations with a neuroscientist. Each time, the audience understands a little better how all of these things are connected, and can finally start to get an understanding of what it was like to live through such an experience.
This unconventional delivery of this production is perhaps its greatest asset. But performing God/Head is a particular challenge, where Goode has to simultaneously be himself and a performer to properly present his story. He manages this very well, and gives a stunning performance. His tone is spot-on: welcoming, honest, almost hypnotic. Director Wendy Hubbard must be largely to thank for perfecting both this tone and the cadence of the show. Goode’s guest’s performance will obviously vary from day to day, but it is the way they react, and how Goode interacts with them, which makes God/Head unique.
Overall, this is a show which is absolutely engrossing, and crucially, incredibly well-written and intelligent. The attention to detail is sublime: the script endlessly cross-references itself, revealing new and unthought of metaphors, new facets to the story. This extends all the way onto the set, which is populated with books, photos, and objects (even a framed screen-grab of one of Goode’s tweets) which all relate to moments mentioned during the performance. The bottom line is this: this production is one which offers a refreshingly honest take on the nature of belief, and a totally absorbing discussion which will leave you blind-sided and wanting more. This should be a feather in the cap of rising playwright Chris Goode. More please.
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God/Head runs at the Ovalhouse Upstairs until 10th Mar 2012. 
Box Office: 0207582 7680 or book online at www.ovalhouse.com.

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