Don’t go to An Act Of God, if you’re standing for election — all politicians are mercilessly dispatched early in the show as of minor importance to the cosmos, by Tom Bowen’s muscular, lycra-stretching Archangel Gabriel.
But it’s not all weakly predictable News Quiz/Now Show Radio 4 comedy fare. In fact, once An Act Of God moves away from the more obvious jokes designed to lull the audience into thinking they’re getting a formula, it gets more interesting — and funny.
God hath descended, partly for “wrath management classes”, and has occupied the body of comedian Zoe Lyons. “Think of me as Sharon Osborne’s dykey little sister,” — to come and chat to us about why belief in Him is not such a good idea after all.
God is assisted by Gabriel and the other archangel, Michael, a bumbly and kind-hearted Matt Tedford, whose main job is to roam the audience and make up questions from fictitious attendees (“Sharon from Swansea wants to know why being and not nothingness”).
What really gives this piece some hellfire is the musing on death — and lots of it. You see, the Zoe-God is actually the Old Testament version, querulous and judgemental, who goes round smiting people and killing their cattle and wives at the drop of a hat.
God is not interested in your football team or your lost purse. Or indeed sex — asking us not to call upon God’s name at the crucial moment. And “why do I have to be there when you’re masturbating? — and I see a lot of familiar faces in here tonight, come to think of it,” observes the Creator tartly.
The show is pacy, punchy and packed with gags and although some of them creak a little under the strain of banging them home in the unforgiving space of 80 minutes, it’s an assured performance by Lyons.
Ultimately, having rewritten the rules, God decides we should stop believing in Him and believe in Ourselves instead. There’s a nice riff about bringing in Steve Jobs to redesign the whole thing — world version 2.0 — and Lyons vanishes in a neatly choreographed illusion involving a silver cape, à la Madonna.
Religious sensitivities run so high that this could be seen as a ‘brave’ show. There’s an early dig at Islam, but then it’s all Christianity bashing, and one circumcision joke that brought a gasp from the audience. Cut?
Writer David Javerbaum’s (US TV’s The Daily Show) script treads surprisingly lightly outside the box, but An Act Of God makes you think as well as laugh, and that’s what good comedy’s supposed to be about, isn’t it?
An Act Of God, The Vaults, Launcelot Street, SE1 7AD. Tickets £20-35, until 12 January 2020.