The God of Hell

TGOH_photo by Gareth DaviesThere’s something fantastical and yet eerily ordinary about the events that unfold when Wisconsin dairy farmers Emma and Frank welcome out-of-town Haynes to their home. The young man literally makes sparks fly at the briefest of contact to human skin. Hand shakes, hugs and kisses generate electric shock. Why? Haynes is a science experiment gone wrong and, as the powers that be try to rein him in, the government will stop at nothing to cover their skin.

Sam Shepard is a tried and true contemporary American playwright. The God of Hell is yet another feather to his colourful bow of meaningful, entertaining and gritty plays. Mop Head Productions in association with the Sydney Independent Theatre Company have given Shepard’s play a very fine production.

Rodney Fisher leads with his clean and clear direction delivered by a skilled cast – Vanessa Downing, Jake Lyall, Ben McIvor and Tony Poli – who each expertly bring their characters to life. Special mention must be given to Ben McIvor’s Welch whose characterisation incites a deliciously painful moan from the audience each and every time Welch rears his distasteful head.

The biggest surprise of the night comes from the almost unrecognisable transformation of the Old Fitz’s black box Theatre at the hands of Rodney Fisher’s meticulous set design. The audience is effortlessly transported into rural America by the sheer life-like picture placed before us – from real bacon frying on the stovetop to wilting pot plants.

The God of Hell is potent in its storytelling. As the play comes to an unexpected end, the audience is left shocked at just how quickly the government and its seemingly uninhibited power can destroy the lives of its constituents. It leaves the audience fearful of just what else might be silently swept under the carpet in other Erin Brockovich-like rural towns not so very far away.

Director / Designer: Rodney Fisher  Featuring: Vanessa Downing, Jake Lyall, Ben McIvor, Tony Poli  Lighting Designer: Nick Schlieper  Sound Designer: Max Lyandvert  Producer: Jake Lyall

The God of Hell
Old Fitzroy Theatre, 129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo
Season continues to 13 September 2014

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Image: Vanessa Downing, Tony Poli, Ben McIvor and Jake Lyall – photo by Gareth Davies

Review: Maryann Wright

Maryann Wright is a performer and writer. She has a Diploma of Musical Theatre from Brent Street and a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) from The University of Sydney. Recent performance credits include Heart of a Dog (Australian premiere), Carrie (Squabbalogic) and Urinetown (Brent Street). Journalism credits include The Guardian, and Girlfriend Magazine.