Is God Is at the Royal Court Theatre
“Was that an awkward pause?” asks the mother of our protagonists. While certain audience members might yearn for some breathing space, there are no pauses in this intense, high-octane revenge thriller that immediately clutches and refuses to let go. Is God Is premiered at New York’s intimate Soho Rep; director Ola Ince now brings it to the much larger Royal Court – a venue that allows for the sheer scope and cinematic style that Aleshea Harris’s genre-merging play deserves.
Twins Anaia (Adelayo Adedayo) and Racine (Tamara Lawrance) have not heard from their mother in 18 years. Summoned to Folsom Rest Home for the Weary, they are surprised she’s even alive. Learning that their father was responsible for setting their mother alight, leaving them too with severe burns, the twins are asked to do something for her before she succumbs to death: kill him.
Chloe Lamford’s inventive set enhances this fast and fiery production, introducing surprising and often humorous visuals in every scene. The design, direction and, of course, a razor-sharp script permit seamless scene transitions, which ensure the pace never falters. Jordan “JFunk” Franklin’s choreography and Imogen Knight’s movement direction also add to the enthralling visual spectacle.
The cast elevate things further. Adedayo and Lawrance are highly convincing as troubled twin sisters, their banter believable and their natural rapport effortless. The actors’ physicality impresses, most noticeably during the more brutal moments, but also in a particularly humorous encounter with their newly discovered twin brothers. Ernest Kingsley Jnr garners the most laughs as wannabe poet Scotch but Rudolphe Mdlongwa, as the more awkward Riley, evokes a certain sensitivity that swiftly changes as tensions rise.
Cecilia Noble as the girls’ mother makes the most memorable entrance, raised up in her hospital bed beneath a church altar – her daughters refer to her as God. The performer commands copious laughs yet embodies so much hurt. She has the house completely captivated in her retelling of the horrors inflicted upon her. Mark Monero as the man responsible gives a tightly controlled portrayal that emits unpredictable menace. But this is all about the women and their refusal to be victims as they furiously battle against trauma, albeit in the most satirical of ways.
While the violence might become too much for some, there are laughs aplenty in this pacy but well balanced, expertly crafted play. The comparisons with Quentin Tarantino and Martin McDonagh are understandable but Harris is a force of her own. Beyond the pulp fiction influences, there is something undoubtedly prophetic and profound here.
Is God Is is at the Royal Court Theatre from 10th September until 23rd October 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: