God/Head is less of a theatre performance and more a slightly odd practical therapy session in which the creator and primary performer of the show shares with the audience his deep and very personal experiences. The audience learns of his battle with depression, his inability to fully comprehend the world around him and his recent religious conundrum. As a passionate atheist, I was concerned that this performance, billed as “a documentary piece. . . [that] explores the flipside of the familiar crisis of faith: what if there is a God after all?”, may be alienating, annoyingly profound or offensive to my beliefs. It was neither. God/Head is not so much an exploration of the question of faith, more a chance to travel in Chris Goode’s world for 90 minutes or so; a close-up look into his psyche.
As the subject of this performance, Chris Goode is an engaging and powerful performer with the ability to move his audience and please them with excellent comic timing and wit. A meld of ‘dream sequences’, repeated monologues and chat with this evening’s special guest, this show is unlike anything else I have ever witnessed. At the start, Chris explains that each evening he is accompanied by a guest. They have had lunch together that day and the guest has some idea of what will be expected of him/her. The guest joins Chris on stage and we are faced with an odd Jeremy Kyle-esque chat show setup. I would like to say that the guest’s (this evening, performer Angela Clarkin’s) involvement is crucial to the development and drive of the piece or that her input brings another level to the drama. Unfortunately the secret messages in envelopes that Angela was allowed to read at set points throughout the piece were mystifying and exclusive. The audience was unable to understand the journey that Angela was having, or the context behind her responses and I believe she was having a more enjoyable time than the viewers. Her presence seemed not to significantly change or effect the events on stage.
The pivotal recurring theme or storyline of the piece describes Chris Goode’s sudden knowledge of the existence of God. He finds a range of storytelling styles to repeat his story to varying extents throughout. The verbal narration is accompanied by musical and gestural motifs, that the spectators latch onto and find both amusing and comforting. Commendation is due for the slick writing and dramaturgy of the performance that managed to feel at times spontaneous although clearly choreographed and following a tight structure. Mistakes do happen, most notably the guest being unsure as to which bit was coming next, but these are the points that really draw us in and allow us to empathise with Chris as a person and not just as an actor on stage. His role is ambiguous. The show is stripped bare as Chris points out very definitely that we are in a theatre, a room and that he is just a man here to tell a story. Despite his down-to-earth attitude, he displays at times the energy and spark of a born actor. I must admit I left this show not sure what to believe. Did I just witness a very clever manipulation of human emotions, or does Chris Goode truly just wish to share the truth of his story with the masses?
Although this documentary piece of theatre was fascinating and at times highly theatrical, I am just not sure whether I really care enough about the minutiae of a total stranger’s life to be fully immersed in this production. It is, however, a touching and unique performance style that is most definitely worth a watch.