EFR - Reviews of Life Sentence

Life Sentence

Fri 2nd – Sat 17th August 2013

reviews

Ashley Chhibber

at 23:19 on 7th Aug 2013

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Several aspects of this show are genuinely funny. Theo’s open admittance of his emotional blackmail as a means to sex; the self-referential skit about everything (pretentious plays especially) being better with an end; some very good one-liners which should not be revealed here. Yet the major issue with this production is one of genre. This is billed as a comedy, and on that level, it really does not work. The philosophical questions about life, death and immortality are interesting, but they cannot be appreciated when the audience is waiting for the punch-line. What might be considered thought-provoking, in this context becomes laboured intellectualism; I found myself asking, just where are the laughs?

Almost the entire production was recast for this Fringe tour, occasionally with members from the production team – Jack Herlihy, who plays Theo, is also the director; Jamie Carragher is the writer, as well as playing Stan – and it is probably as a result of this that the delivery was sometimes awkward and stilting. Comic timing was slightly off, and there were issues with pacing overall, with some scenes dragging severely.

When an actor plays two different roles, they must be just that: different. Charlie Dennis, who is both Theo’s doctor and father, was very successful at this: both characters were completely distinct; they were funny for different reasons, with the father’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ impressions a particular highlight; indeed, Dennis’ acting was probably the strongest in this performance.

Claire Parry, on the other hand, stuck to the role of eccentric over-the-top ‘artiste’ when playing both Natalie and Theo’s mother. This was pointed out in two ways: first, as Natalie, she role-plays as Theo’s mother (whom she has never met); second, a reference is made by Parry as mother to Natalie’s absence from the funeral. It took me a long time to be certain that Parry was indeed playing Theo’s real mother, rather than this being Natalie taking on the role as part of the plan; for this reason, the joke referencing the doubling-up of actors was not at all funny.

This piece should have been developed as a piece of serious theatre, with the humour being no less present but serving as a nice bonus rather than the unfulfilled focus of the production. This would have allowed development of the various sub-plots – the shaky relationship between Stan and Michelle, Theo’s difficulties with his parents – and given greater potential for emotional intensity to the final revelation at the end. This might also have given the actors more space to showcase their skills, and the intelligence evidently underlying the script.

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Costanza Bertoni

at 01:30 on 8th Aug 2013

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An ‘interminable condition’; what would you do if you discovered that you were immortal? Life sentence is an intelligent, bittersweet comedy about the joys of life, and death. Macabre and deathly on the tin, this production has a real intelligent and comic message at its beating heart.

It follows the story of Theo, who gets mysteriously diagnosed with the disease of immortality. With his friends Michelle and Stan, he debate on the values, and also the troubles of the prospect of living forever.

Presented with a flyer with a rather menacing skull on, I was concerned that this production would be either too dark and not funny, or comical without an adequate backdrop. However I was pleasantly surprised. The production proved to be a fine line between an insightful exploration into the philosophical implications of longevity, without being too imposing or dragging, and also an entertaining series of sketches with a deadly edge.

The acting was perfectly suited to the tone of the show, as the type of dark comedy chosen very much favoured their understated form of comic manner, which ensured that the result didn’t feel forced or awkward. All of the actors: Jack Herlihy, Jamie Carragher, Emily Troup, Claire Parry and Charlie Dennis, performed to a professional level, and I was particularly impressed with Jamie and Jack for writing and directing this engaging, and slick performance.

A final point about the production was that as well as being an excellent depiction of the pros and cons of having too much or too little time, the timing of the show was absolutely spot on. Just under an hour, it ensured that the comedy didn’t create an awkward ambience, and that the audience didn’t start getting fidgety. This also meant that the final, powerful message of the show was not lost to the pins and needles, or narrowing attention span of the audience members.

The first piece of dark comedy I have seen at the Fringe, it has definitely set a high standard. Witty, fresh and entertaining, 'Life Sentence' will not disappoint. It is indeed, if you’ll pardon the pun, drop-dead funny.

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