Originally published on A Younger Theatre
Simon Vickery writes a series of three short plays that all deal with death – one about mourning a lost loved one, one about remembering one recently passed and one about dealing with the knowledge that you’re about to die. “A tragedy, a farce and the blackest of comedies” describes each play, although it’s not entirely obvious which is meant to be which.
The plays don’t start immediately. Instead the audience watches the four main actors arriving and getting into character. Dressed entirely in white, they mime talking and readying themselves dressing on an entirely black stage, whilst semi-electronic music overdubbed with the sound of voices speaking adds a sense of pace and preparation. Are these the inner voices of the actors as they consider their roles? Maybe they are an insight into the rehearsal process and dialogue? It’s not exactly clear, but it is painstakingly obvious that after 30 seconds this background noise is nothing but annoying and distracting, like the sound of an insect buzzing in your ear.
The One We Loved opens with Sophie (Lizzie Corscaden) and her father Adam (Edward Cherrie) digging for a hidden box seemingly buried underneath a coffin. Unfortunately Jane (Ashleigh Robson) comes along at just the wrong time to mourn her deceased friend, forcing the grave robbers to hurriedly cover their tracks and hide. Jane (Robson) is eventually joined by a drunken Sam (Mike Clarke), also stumbling to the grave to witness the deceased. A twist in the tale ensues as Sophie (Corscaden) and Adam (Cherrie) attempt to retrieve their stolen plunder. Props are minimal here. Normally artistic licence would be granted in place of an actual grave, but the mime of lifting out a coffin with one hand and tossing it aside seems a little tricky to believe. All actors here come across as amateurs and the whole play seems thrown together at the last minute – no character development, no extra emotion and all together not much more than a secondary school production.
Tony’s Death (once the actors have resumed their miming to get ready for the next play amidst the incessant drone) tells of a family all recounting the events surrounding a family death. Tony seems to have passed after a long, drawn-out battle with cancer. Tom (Cherrie) and Lizzie (Robson) are the siblings and recount the final moments of Tony’s life very differently to Dad (Clarke) and even Mum (Corscaden). Each family member speaks directly to the audience. Lizzie (Robson) comes across as a slightly over-the-top bored teenager, not fussed about Uncle Tony and getting annoyed at the emotional reactions the other family members had. Tom (Cherrie) feels guilty: on their last encounter he discovered a secret about Tony and reacted poorly. Now he can only speculate that the last thing Tony must have thought about him was anger, or worse fear. Cherrie tells this story in his monologue well, but the writing draws it out too long and so it loses its impact for the audience. The secret itself is also made out to be more serious and shocking than it actually is in today’s society. Dad (Clarke) recounts happy memories of his friend and brother-in-law; the acting is totally nondescript here, but the stories shed light on the secret previously unearthed by his son. Mum (Corscaden) is the star in this play – seemingly a shell of her former self, her stories about her brother evoke pathos and draw the audience in.
Everybody Has A Price introduces the idea of a corporate hit-man consultancy. Person C (Clarke) is brought in and processed by admin worker A (Corscaden) for murder – it seems that person B (Cherrie) was hired through a third party to find C and the company takes a cut of the price. The subjects are allowed a visitor before being ‘disposed of’ – so enters a robotic and despondent wife D (Robson), apparently tranquillised so as not to be too traumatised by the whole affair. The premise of the play is interesting, but not explored in any depth. Clarke here as the subject makes an effective plea for his life, but there still isn’t enough desperation of stoicism in his character; as someone about to die, it would be natural to have a greater reaction than that which Clarke displays.
The production overall is disjointed: the music, the scene changes in mime, even the playwriting and overall acting are nothing exciting or special. Everything is flat and uninspiring and definitely not an emotive construction of different scenarios that deal with death.
You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Gone is playing at The Bread and Roses Theatre until 11 July. For more information and tickets see The Bread and Roses Theatre website.