Chav Scum Kills God
Alternative theology meets tepid social commentary as Drew Davies' titular "chav" embarks on a wholly unholy suicide mission: his target, a pink-frocked Almighty. God has never looked so good.
Secularism is the mother of the ASBO. With no whip-wielding deity to fear and abide, contemporary British society grows fearlessly anti-social.
Such a postulation, though erroneous, is growing increasingly supportable. One might hope, therefore, that a play that throws a Burberry collared, baseball-capped social nuisance, a well-bosomed Goddess, and a croaky, americanised devil into the same theatrical pot might just be seeking to further, if not elucidate, the argument.
Such hopes, however, prove vain. Chav Scum Kills God, despite its unabashed spirit, unerring energy, and accomplished execution, does little to probe what is a potentially fruitful thematic domain.
The plot's vertebra is the odyssey of Chaverston Robert Scunthorpe Jnr, played with ample street-mojo, gang-lingo, Crown Bingo-angst by Bradley Benjamin. Stereotypes are cast, but, starved of ironic or deconstructive treatment, are not cast aside.
Recently deceased (he put his car into a ditch whilst gorging on fried chicken), Robert winds up in a distorted purgatory. Mong-Han Liang's set is clinically arranged: closed white blinds surround; a single table and chair make up the furnishings. Hell, it would appear, is a GP's surgery.
It is in this unlikely Hades that we meet Pipes, Robert's assigned advisor and confidant. Michael Lindall flourishes as the vaulting, blister-blowing automaton. His robotic spasms and monotone delivery evoke a demonic Buzz Lightyear.
Unbeknown to them, Pipes and Robert are pawns in a redder than usual socialist coup. Robert's perished father - vexed at having to rough it in hell - plots a blasphemous usurpation of the afterlife. Played with panting menace by Des Brittain, Robert Senior is an unfashionable revolutionary. Decked out in an outfit befitting a jogging golfer, this arch plotter is an ill-dressed Iago.
Thus Robert, commissioned by his father, commences an ungodly crusade. Armed with dynamite operated alarm-clock and Polaroid camera, our working-class anti-hero sets off to cause heavenly strife.
The road to heaven, unsurprisingly, proves tricky to negotiate. Dispirited and lost, Robert makes a timely acquaintance in Lou (Jonathan Hansler), a roaming, rasping, hippy-devil. The two strike-up a rapport: they play cards, share anecdotes. Lou, yielding one of the play's recurring mini-morals, offers: "The fight for your soul doesn't end when you die; it begins, in earnest."
Safely arrived at the "house of G" and bent on dislodging the Almighty, Robert's suicidal assignment comes unstuck - God is a woman, and what's more, she's Robert's ex-girlfriend.
Kathy (Sarah Alborn) is quite the omniscient one. Clad in raspberry gown, tiara and hoop-earrings one could turn a car in, Kathy unveils the secrets of her celestial office. Her teachings make for charming, if lacklustre, theology.
Davies dips his toes in some choppy, muddy puddles (religion, class inequalities, social stereotyping) without ever fully plunging his foot under the surface. The effect is to present such issues as trifles - which, lamentably, they are not.
The pace of the text, the originality of the plot and some assured acting and direction save this play from theatrical damnation. It could have been, with greater intellectual commitment, heaven-sent.
Running until November 30th
Reviewer: Ben Aitken