Highly lauded as the funniest and filthiest Broadway show in years, Hand to God, is coming to the Alex Theatre, St.Kilda, later this month, promising hilarity and filth in delicious equal measure.

Bible Belt America comes alive in this small town story about a troubled boy named Jason and his free falling id, in the form of a defiant hand puppet named, Tyrone.

Renowned, and award winning Australian actor, Alison Whyte, plays Jason’s mother, Margery, a recent widow under a great deal of emotional and financial stress. She is, says Whyte , both attached to the protagonist and the antagonist. “So, she is deeply religious, but she’s in a state of, I suppose, fragility having lost her husband, and her son doesn’t talk to her, he only talks to her through a puppet,” says Whyte, who loves the complexity of the character. “I sort of love the extremes that the playwright puts her in and what it makes her do and then what she does to cover it, it makes sense on a human nature level. I really love that she’s trying to fight to be a good decent person but just her animal instincts take over and her primal stuff just can’t be denied.”

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Written by Robert Askins, Hand to God, has had an almost meteoric rise from very humble venues to Broadway.  This is certainly an aspect that attracted Whyte:  “I suppose what initially drew me to it was the fact that it had done so well overseas for a start,” she says. “It had five Tony nominations and it had come from a very small, little theatre and made its way to Broadway, so that’s sort of an interesting thing. Then when I read it, I thought oh my goodness this is really anarchic. Having just come off doing two Irish plays, which have really deeply religious connotations; Faith Healer by Brian Friel and The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, this was like the perfect antidote from what I’d been doing. It was anarchic, it was punk it, it was irreligious, it was fun, it had more than one person on stage which was really good (those two play’s that I had just done were monologues), and it’s funny. So, this for me was something that I went ‘yeah this is exactly the right play for me to do now, it’s the perfect antidote, this is what I need to keep wanting to do theatre’”

Askins describes it as an expression about honesty. Whyte agrees that the work delves into the murkiness inside us all and really stirs things about in there.

“I think there’s lots of different theme’s that it is exploring, you can make up your own conclusions when you come and see it,” she says. “But, I think it’s sort of exploring hypocrisy and what we are doing to ourselves, what layers we put on ourselves to make us less animal and less human and I think particularly what constraints societies and religions put on people, and how if you constrain people they have to somehow explode through and sort of how that becomes malignant and bloated and pops out, so you’ve got to be really careful of that sort of stuff. I think Robert Askins really explores grief, he explores relationships between mother and son and lots of different things that will definitely keep you interested.”

The work asks a lot of its actors – it’s highly physical, exuberant and lavishly visual. Akin to a farce, the tempo and timing matter. For Whyte, the physical nature of the performance has been both the most fun and most challenging aspect of the rehearsal process:  “I think it’s going to be a lot more physical than I thought. It has in the writing that there’s going to be a real choreography about the performance, which is not necessarily normal, there’s a real style to it and I think that’s really exciting to try and find.”

Hand to God is a darkly delightful play whose magic is in its ability to move to both laughter and deep thought. Says Whyte: ” If you want to have a laugh I think you should come and see it. I think it’s a brilliant piece of writing that has won lots of awards for very good reasons, and hopefully we’ll do it justice.”

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Directed by Gary Abrahams

Cast: Alison Whyte, Grant Piro, Gyton Grantley, Jake Speer, Morgana O’Rielly

February 22 – March 18

https://alextheatrestk.com.au/

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