Born on a Monday

Mon 13th – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Ella Kemp

at 09:04 on 17th Aug 2018

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People go to a town called Heaven, in Oklahoma, because they are going to die. Sooner or later - it doesn’t mater too much when - all of your friends are going to die and you will too. 'Born on a Monday' is based on the Solomon Grundy nursery rhyme, laying out a week in the lives of a handful of individuals who don’t really seem to know what they’re living for.

The three actors juggle a heavy amount of responsibility; singing and playing music, swapping roles and shuffling sets around to make up the mundanities of their last week alive. In this straightforward premise of some kind of countdown to the end of existence, the actual desire to make anything worthwhile unfortunately doesn’t seep through. What remains is a confusing mishmash of existentialism, technological anxiety and sweet guitar numbers.

Characters range from a priest who might be faking it, to a welcome desk assistant who is secretly orchestrating a whisper network to speak to the dead. And then there’s Chris, a S-Town-esque bumbling journalist who runs a podcast. He has a drinking problem and doesn’t have anything better to do.

The acting is well-intentioned but ultimately not developed enough to carry the fantastical story of these people’s lives. The mentally ill and emotionally empty just seem flimsy, and the yearning for reasons to live just fall flat.

There are so many different strands; promises of weird and wonderfully sad insecurities that can’t find a solution before the end of the world — but in just over 45 minutes, it only scratches the surface. Direct addresses make up for character development, and hints of romance or family tragedy never reach their full potential. Sci-fi tributes are scattered throughout, without ever giving a strong enough step up to make the show shine as its own brand new entity.

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Rowan Evans

at 09:59 on 17th Aug 2018

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The idea of a small town where everyone is dying will be familiar to most people who have watched any sort of media. 'Born on a Monday' takes this morbidity and transforms it into a funny, yet touching, piece of theatre. Using the nursery rhyme of Solomon Grundy, Outside Chance have created a striking first production.

'Born on a Monday' follows a podcaster named Chris as he enters Heaven Oklahoma, to investigate why everyone is dying. He meets PX, who works at the welcome centre in the town which collects the remains of all the dead people. This is all overlooked by a series of characters who for some reason all look the same.

The piece takes place over the course of a week which is shown by a simple sign in the corner. This represented the passage of time in a simple, yet compelling way.

The show was funny, while not sacrificing the themes of death that purveyed throughout. In fact, death became a running joke. This was fitting as death was such a normal thing in this town. So normal, in fact, that PX dryly told Chris to just get over the fact that he might die.

The transitions between scenes were both slick and entertaining in their ingenuity. A freeze frame turned into a burning building, turned into a monologue. There was a real satisfying quality to it all. This carried over to the technical direction, which underscored the drama in a nonintrusive but stylish way.

This showed itself most in the moments where the characters contacted the dead on mobile – the voicemails haunting the stage. The use of phones, and the idea of memorial page and where people go when they die, was compelling. It gave the show a mourning tone. Death was a driving force which affected the characters in varying ways.

Some sequences were not so effective. The supposed “sex-death ballet”, for instance, felt awkward and out of place. But these moments were few and far between, and I left the studio feeling a calm satisfaction. The sad, bleak song that ended the production saw to this - “Everyone’s dying in heaven”.

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