Breathing Corpses

Fri 3rd – Mon 27th August 2012

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reviews

Karl Dando

at 03:01 on 9th Aug 2012

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This production of ‘Breathing Corpses’ is excellent. We should get this out of the way straight away: if you are questioning whether or not to see this show, then you should. Every single performer should be proud of their performance - there are no weak links here. We might highlight Chloe Young, Alex Appleby and Tom Chapman as particularly interesting and novel offerings, but really, the consistent quality of performance here is one of this production’s major successes.

The quality of the ensemble emphasises the strong structural considerations of Laura Wade’s play, and the design contributes excellently in emphasising the formal concerns of the drama. Scene changes are handled beautifully with womb-dim lights to a soundtrack of low grumblings and atmospheric snatches of ambient detail. The reconfiguration of the stage elements is particularly nice, as is the eventual reveal of the bed/counter/bed from a pile of doors that Sam Rix’s Jim removes from his house. Rix’s performance, incidentally, is another triumph.

Not much more needs to be said. This is a beautifully written, beautifully performed play. It is both devilish and tricksy, but solid, and serious, and admirable at the same time. Wade’s work is, at heart, a meditation on the most serious things – the representation of death – treated in serious and unserious ways, a collision of tones that reveals a scientific disinterest to the play’s interrogation of its themes. But every performance sings with a bright consistency and a believable sense of gusto which is so human and immediate. 'Breathing Corpses' is funny, dark, smart, interesting and a great accomplishment for all involved.

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Steve Hartill

at 09:37 on 9th Aug 2012

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'Breathing Corpses' is an intense collection of standalone stories tied together by a common theme of death and the human reaction to it. Laura Wade’s play is fascinating and unrelenting, with connections that are revealed to the audience but kept secret from the characters on stage. It opens with Amy (Emma Killip), a hotel cleaner entering the room she is about to tidy. She is apologetic and disarmingly likeable, and her reaction to discovering a dead body in the bed she is about to remake is of tender shock and dismay.

Each scene connects to the next without revealing too much information - the mystery of which was certainly my favourite part of the play. The plot advances through the domestic life of Jim (Sam Rix) and Elaine (Chloe Young), who employ Ray (Alex Appleby), and all three of these characters have their own encounter with mortality. Then it moves on to Kate (Rosa Brook) and Ben (Tom Chapman), a high-strung couple whose tension creates engrossing drama that kept me hooked until the stunning resolution of their scene. Eventually, the plot comes full-circle, and returns to Amy in the hotel, who this time has a fateful encounter with a new character, introduced almost at the last minute in the show, Charlie (Dan Hartley).

Although the play is certainly dark in subject matter, Laura Wade has an exceptional sense of humour, such as the entertaining dialogue between Amy and the corpse in the hotel room (a very one-sided conversation, obviously) or the bizarre reaction to the death in dismantling furniture, (“You’ve taken all the doors off?!”) which shines through in her writing. Another highlight of her writing, and emphasised by the astounding talent of the actors, is the amount of clues that are scattered throughout the script: lines that, upon first hearing, will mean little, but have resounding relevance throughout the plot and echo onto the subsequent scenes.

The stage-craft of the show is impressive as well, with notable use of a mobile table and little furniture or props to convey very different settings: settings which at a few points feel chillingly claustrophobic and stifling for the domestic drama on stage.. The lighting cues were slick and the sound effects certainly made an impact on the show and its characters but, again, to say more would lead to spoilers. In the end I thoroughly enjoyed Breathing Corpses: the actors were flawless, portraying engrossing characters, and able to show themselves shattered by the events of the play. I would strongly advise that you see this show: you will feel involved, engrossed and it will stay with you for hours after the last lights fall.

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