Till Death

Mon 11th – Thu 21st August 2014

reviews

Jessica McKay

at 20:19 on 19th Aug 2014

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Till Death is a play about the ups and downs of married life. Compelled to ‘stick with’ the show for an hour, by its conclusion I felt like a resentful spouse keen to escape my unwanted partner’s clutches.

Till Death told the tale of three couples who pay a visit to a marriage counsellor. The first couple were a middle-class, couscous-consuming cliché; the second were lesbians fixated (shock horror) on breasts; the third a mismatched ‘common’, northern wife Lesley (Hannah Blake) and her coked-up posh-boy partner Graham Sweetness (Adam Hutton). The pair's desperation and troubled relationship was incredibly uncomfortable to watch. Their marriage was totally unbelievable, and Graham’s repeated digs at Lesley were inordinately cruel. "Fuck" and "bitch" were tossed around gratuitously, adding nothing to the dynamic.

Practically all characters were poorly written, and it was impossible to care one at all about the utterly predictable outcome of their relationships. The script was so poor, in fact, that it made me momentarily go against the inclusive spirit of the Fringe and conjecture that there ought to be some sort of vetting process for new writing that comes to Edinburgh.

But the dismal script wasn’t entirely to blame. This production felt like a bunch of kids ‘having a go’ at acting. Delivery was wooden, the actors kept corpsing, sexual innuendos were immature and cheap and almost every joke felt flat. The only people laughing were the techs. If you’re asking people to spend time and money on a show you should maintain some sort of standard of acting...Till Death didn’t.

I’ve watched three different productions by Z Theatre Company in three days, and they’ve got two more currently showing at the Fringe. Rrather than putting on five mediocre shows these students might have done better to pool their resources and talent and staged just one, good play. Till Death is definitely the least successful of all Z Theatre Company’s offerings, and not worth taking time out of your busy Fringe schedule to see.

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Kate Wilkinson

at 01:06 on 20th Aug 2014

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When the marriage counsellor’s wife (Elinor Richards) finally discovers that her husband (Colin Malone) has been cheating on her with his sour secretary (Munya Redman-Bayasi) she exclaims, ‘Your secretary! What are you, a character in a hastily written play?’ This self-deprecating and accurate line is a refreshing moment in a play laden with cliché. Till Death certainly did seem hasty, from the rushed lines to the emmental-plot. By that I mean it was cheesy and full of holes.

Till Death is a farce set at Dr Colin Malone’s marriage counselling service which claims to ‘fix your marriage so Jeremy Kyle doesn’t have to’ (another one of the sharper lines). Considering it’s meant to be a light-hearted farce, the play occasionally becomes oddly sincere, as if it were trying to give a poignant insight into the nature of marriage.

At one point each couple deliver an earnest spiel to the audience recalling their romantic history. Hannah Blake gives an understated performance as Lesley Sweetness and tells her tale as a long-suffering wife with surprising pathos. This doesn’t quite fit with the otherwise frothy play but is at least better than bland cliché. Mrs Francis is the aggrieved wife of a constantly abroad workaholic husband. The third is a lesbian couple, Sarah and Danni, whose relationship issues revolve around breast size.

The play gradually gets more improbable. When Sarah goes to get a boob job in secret, she somehow forgets that her wife Danni works at the cosmetic surgery as an assistant. As you’d expect in a farce, it all ends happily, but Till Death is laboriously contrived rather than ingeniously crafted. Each character assumes one note throughout, a fault both of the writing and the acting which is mostly either over-the-top or wooden. Perhaps the most convincing character, Adam Hutton plays the repugnant Graham Sweetness with some level of gusto.

Till Death is so poorly written, there is no doubt that even the poorest acting on display could have been improved by something more substantial. As a farce, it didn’t work and Z Theatre should select their material more carefully in future before producing another show at the Fringe.

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