The God of Soho
"The state of things in heaven and on the earth. And the reasons why. An inquiry. There's a lack of loveliness in the world. There's a mood. It's like a giant rubbling around the cities of heaven and earth, crushing shops and cathedrals and stadiums beneath its feet as it searches for something lovely, having not the smallest idea what loveliness looks like."
The play begins with the expulsion from heaven of Clem the goddess of love. Her lover has been unable to make love to her unless she wears stockings and she is banished to earth, robbed of her sexual power and confidence.
Meanwhile rock star Baz and the self-loathing reality-TV star Natty are tearing pieces out of each other in the tabloids. On the surface they are just like any other celebrity couple, obsessed with their own image but on closer examination we discover they are in love with each other. The problem is they express their love through physically violent sex, they don't know any other way to do it. The only kind of sex that arouses them is the kind that involves inflicting pain.
Baz is coming to see that this can only end badly and he wants (or half wants) to try something different - but Natty isn't interested. She can't do nice.
Sexy, insane and real, this is an extreme love story.
The God of Soho was first performed at Shakespeare's Globe on 27th August 2011, directed by Raz Shaw, designed by Hannah Clark, choreographed by Ann Yee, with music composed by Alex Silverman. The cast was Michael Camp (Joe Queenan/Terry Cash), Richard Clews (Edwardo), Phil Daniels (the Big God), Miranda Foster (Mrs God), Edward Hogg (Baz), Will Mannering (the New God), Emma Pierson (Natty), Sarita Piotrowski (Handmaiden/Hairy Goddess), Iris Roberts (Clem), Beatriz Romilly (Stan), Jade Williams (Teresa). The musicians were King Porter Stomp.
The God of Soho got a pretty thorough kicking from the critics - but other of my plays have enjoyed warm critical praise so it ill behoves me to make any complaint.
I'm happy to stand by the piece. For one thing I enjoyed so many of the performances - Emma Pierson embraced Natty's viciousness with such inventiveness and glee, Jade Williams was awesome as her sister, and I fell in love with Ed Hogg as an actor and a man. But I feel bad picking out those performances because there were others every bit as wonderful; Iris Roberts for instance was brave and lovely as the goddess of love...and I could go on.
I adored the production number at the showbiz funeral scene. It brought the house down every night - the music, the choreography, the design, everything that was best about Raz Shaw's production came together in a moment of huge energy and punch.
But what was it all about?
The critics found it incoherent but that is largely because they were led to expect a satire on celebrity (it isn't) and were unanimous in thinking the satire was weak (yes, because it isn't a satire).
If I say the play is about fetishism that perhaps makes it sound like it's exploring an obscure corner of modern life, something that happens in Soho sex joints. But if you think about porn and think about fame - if you think about how huge a driver of the economy those two things are - you get some idea of the influence of fetishism in our society. Is it reasonable to say it dominates our thinking? Well, it dominates the Internet, which is a clue. It is what is wrong with us.
This is a play about two couples who are torn apart by the fetishism that has taken over their intimate private lives, and that seems like territory we need to explore.