Bereavement: The Musical

JESSICA O'DRISCOLL-BREEN contemplates life, (the Van of) death, and musical theatre. Take a date.

ADC Theatre, 8th – 11th February, 11pm, £4-6

Directed by Jeff Carpenter and Andy Brock

[rating: 4/5]

I’m writing this from the Van of Death where my plus-one and I have come after an entertaining 45 minutes of bereavement, still in need, however, of a tiny bit more termination to fully satisfy our desire for demise. 

We were mostly satiated before this little freezing detour to Market Square, where a poor boy is puking his guts up right now. I bet the vomit is freezing a bit on the cold ground. Ha. Anyway, yes, the production was good and I rose along with the rest of the ADC audience tonight to give a standing ovation.

Photographs by Helen Simmons

The singing was wonderful, with Rosie Brown inviting whoops and cheers from the audience after one particularly impressive and funny number. Similarly, the music (by Jeff Carpenter) was fantastic, and the choreography (by Alex Lippa) was hilarious at times (like when tissues were used as mock feathers in a burlesque style) and always very aesthetically pleasing, with each actor very sure of their place on the stage. It was very solid, especially for an opening night.

It felt very intimate and real in the ADC tonight, which was nice and refreshing. However, sometimes the “real” became a bit too real (translation: boring). Now, perhaps this was a very intelligent theatrical device used by the directors and writer, imparting upon us the boredom associated with death and funerals. But, in fairness, it probably wasn’t, and it was a pity for something with a strong beginning and end to have a disappointing middle. Just like the Leggera Pizza from Pizza Express with a hole in the middle.

I was really on Bereavement’s side before seeing it, because I think it is a fantastically original idea, but I really wish that the whole thing was a little more thought-provoking than the one-dimensional cabaret that we were presented with. The main message behind the musical is that when we grieve, others sometimes wrongly expect that we cannot keep living normally and that everything has to stand still. Okay, fine point, but almost every one of the six stories pushed this point. It stopped being interesting after the second time.

That being said, there were some brilliant moments: Joey Akubeze’s almost tear-inducing solo springs to mind, and both the opening and the finale were great as well. The set was also fun, and the transitions were quick and slick between scenes. And kudos to whoever made sure the Mac was charged for all sound cues.

I hope that by highlighting the few faults in Bereavement: The Musical, I haven’t taken away from the four well-deserved stars it got. I did enjoy it. A friend just asked me if she should go on a date there in a few days and I said yes. You should all go on dates to see it too. Go on, ask someone out while you’re young and alive: we’ll be in the ground soon enough.

  • George Potts

    Should be five stars. Don't care about Fatty Dalton eating a burger.

    • Skinny Malton

      It was cheezy chips actually

    • George Potts

      Fairly sure I didn't right this. I don't like lemons.

      • REALLY George Potts

        Well I definitely didn't *write* that. How odd.

        • No, I'm Spartacus

          something fishy going on here…

          • George Potts

            Only joking guys. I wrote all of the above.

    • not a fan

      shut up George Potts

  • This is

    a bad and boring review of a very good show.

    • The world

      stop crying

    • You are a toilet

      No it's not, it's a good review of a very good show.

      Put on a Cat Stevens record and chill out.

  • Standing ovation

    This is, by far, one of the worst reviews that I've ever read on, by far, one of the best shows that I've ever seen. No-one's interested in the narrative of your journey home from the theatre- nor in the solidification of a stranger's vomit! What the hell? This was a five star show that made the audiences laugh, cry and stand to their feet in exultation. This didn't do it justice

    • yadda yadda

      if some people didn't like the show that is up to them you childish and embarrassing person. 4 stars isn't even bad.

      • standing ovation

        It's quite obvious that I was critiquing the way that this review was written rather than the amount of stars. Yes, in my opinion it deserved more than four stars but I was mainly annoyed about the review itself. It's clear that the writers and performers of the show took a lot of time to create it and it seemed a shame that it was recounted in a slapdash-walking-home-from-the-van-of-deah way. Leave the vomit out of reviews

  • But…

    …if it was only four stars, why did I and the entire theatre want to stand up at the end? I think it's the best show I've seen in Cambridge

    • mob mentality

      the directors and their friends stand up in the front row and everyone else feels as if they have to too

      • Actually…

        Actually, I spoke to the directors and they did not start it. It came about spontaneously. Also, if your theory is so well thought out, why does this not happen on the opening night of every show?

      • you're wrong

        Not true. I was sitting behind the director and friends and they only stood up when everyone else did! Watch the show yourself and I guarantee you'll be standing too

        • Greg

          I went to go and see One Man Two Guvnors, that got a standing ovation, and it was pretty mediocre. Sometimes, if the mood is right, a show gets a standing ovation. That's not to say the show didn't deserve one, and if it got one it must be of a high caliber, but it doesn't necessarily mean the show deserves five stars.

          Saying that, I've never agreed with any of O'Driscol-Breen's reviews so either Bereavement deserved five stars or it was absolutely awful. I'm going to plump for the former! (lolsbury)

          • Bereaved

            The nature of the show may be one reason why it received a standing ovation. From what I've read, both Carpenter and Ohagan have lost parents and so for those who know this, the intensity and honesty of the piece may be twice as touching, although the piece itself (objectively speaking) may not have been a five star show.

            Perhaps this is why their friends seem to be so grossly perturbed, because the show means something to them that is far more personal than the objective reviewer.

            • good point!

              This is a really intelligent opinion. It's true- that's probably why so many people were moved by it and why so many people are so hept up about the reviews.

          • Just sayin'

            Got a standing ovation again on the second night too.

  • Jessica's Diary

    You used to write all your turgid daily observations about vomming and pizza express in me! Why have you started shoehorning them into reviews?! Come back to me Jessica!

  • impressed

    what is unreasonable about four stars? the show was great but there were slower moments and very little character development. it was an amazing and fun exploration of a single idea.

  • 4 stars

    I think 4 stars generous to a play with no character development, a sagging middle, and consistently predictable punchlines.

    Yes it was a good idea from an intimate, honest source, but it went little beyond this. Enjoyable but ultimately unsatisfying.

  • REALLY?!

    Christ certain people are getting in a tizzy! FOUR stars means a very, very good show. Jessica had her reservation about certain aspects (clearly brought out in the Varsity review), but overall she loved it. Friends and lovers of the cast and crew need to calm down and drink a cup of tea.

    • Daniel

      I don't think it's really about 'friends and lovers of the cast and crew'. It's that this was an extremely beautiful and honest show – something that you will rarely come across. As such, it deserves the adoration and defense it is getting. This comes not from knowing the cast or crew, but from recognizing the value of the thing. There are plenty of shows which have friends in, which get bad reviews and which aren't defended like this. The reason this has been defended in such a way is because it affected its audience so powerfully and truthfully.

      • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

        Oh Daniel just go away and shut up

      • Tell me why?!?!

        But it got 4 stars!? Why does it need defending?!

  • Wannabee

    Oooh, I'd better put a status on Facebook up about HOW MUCH I LOVED BEREAVEMENT AND HOW IT WAS THE GREATEST SHOW IN HISTORY, or else everyone in the ADC in-crowd will black list me.

    Few, done. Missed a bullet there!

    • Did Simon Hann

      write this?

      • Simon Hann

        is a jealous idiot

        • Nnah Nomis

          Anyone else not know who Simon Hann is? Slanderous.

          • Wompo

            Not slanderous, clearly a personal opinion of the bearded loon.

          • Sad Truth

            Don't think Simon Hann's in any position to take the moral highground when it comes to slander…

  • Wannabee my lover

    Not to mention all the commenting on the Varsity review. Those nasty, Varsity-types obviously have an agenda against my friends.

    • Simon Hann

      definitely wrote this.

  • Jeez

    [youtube xoTzLLZMrKc youtube]

  • You're not

    AA Gill.
    Less you, more review

    • The world

      You're a cunt.

  • Reader

    The comments about friends of the show really irritate me. It's not friends of the show that are defending it, it's people who profoundly enjoyed it. Stop being so cynical all the bloody time and understand that people can appreciate art other than because their friends are in it.

    • touche

      Look at the varsity review, and you will be proven wrong.

    • Not Just A Reader

      OK 'reader'. You just stumbled across this review, after seeing the show, and felt the need to share your opinion. Three times, under three different names.


      Thanks for the tip, Jeff!

  • It can't just be me

    Who thought this show was in poor taste, the ovation a result of emotional blackmail, and the cast's responses to both this and the Varsity review petty, arrogant rudeness?

    This review seems far too generous, in my opinion. I hated it.

    • spot on

      'emotional blackmail'

      • Surely only possible

        if the material and show are good enough to make an audience emotional and involved?

    • URGH

      In what way is it 'rude' to respond to a review written by a student? Is it not better to provide a balanced set of opinions rather than Pandora and Jessica's hastiy assembled attempts at journalism? Student reviewers are fallible, ill-informed and often just as arrogant than any actor or director. I cannot stand this attitude that anyone who dares to express an opinion contrary to that of a reviewer is somehow getting above their station.

      • Spartacus

        It's not that. It's the fact that there has been a concerted effort to discredit both of the reviews to suggest that the show is beyond criticism of any kind. Gushing doesn't even come close.

        • URGHH

          You kind of miss my point which is that the comments provide an alternative perspective to that of the review. So a show has a strong effect on people and makes them want to 'gush'…brilliant!! Far too many people, like yourself, seem to find an unmediated, emotional response to something difficult to deal with. As for the idea that there is some sort of 'concerted' effort by some mysterious ADC mafia to discredit the holy views of student crtics…come on. Get your head out of the Cambridge bubble and realise that there is more to life than the tab, varsity and the ADC theatre.

          • Spartacus

            Just look at the varsity comments section!!

      • Grow Up

        Perhaps if the contrary opinions involved anything more than 'MY PLAY WAS GOOD PLAY' people would take you more seriously. This isn't a balanced response, and you seem to be forgetting that the 'student' reviewer is appropriate for this 'student' production. You don't seem to realise that calling this a hastily written attempt at journalism makes you no better than the reviewer who criticised your work.

        Everyone's just doing their job, apart from you and the rest of the cast crying in the comment section. Start acting like a professional if you're going to demand the same standards from your reviewers. The comments on that Varsity review, however good the show may have been (it was, in fact, trite emotional blackmail, as has been pointed out here already), were pretty unpleasant.

        • you're wrong

          This is crass crap. Perhaps you didn't like the show. That's understandable if it's your opinion but the majority of the people I spoke to after watching it were moved and loved the production. If they decide to voice their opinions agains the articles on here or varsity in order to encourage people to see a show that they feel passionate about then that's great for them. I've only seen that one member of the cast has commented on the varsity review and that was in reaction to everyone else's opinion. The "MY PLAY WAS (a) GOOD PLAY" line is utter bullshit. I think if the reaction to the reviews of this show show anything it's that people feel passionately about it, one way or the other and I think that's awesome.

        • here here

          couldn't agree more

    • anon

      i agree, it was terrible, but I have to stay anonymous to say that otherwise i fear my adc-associated friends might murder me in my sleep.

      • YOU LIE!

        '…realise that there is more to life than the tab, varsity and the ADC theatre.'

        Fuck you! You're wrong!

  • wouldnt-wannabee-you

    or they just thought it was a great show which received a review at odds with their own opinions?

  • Wannnnabbee

    'Arrogant rudeness' sums it up pretty well. Where are all the other shows that get the ADC big guns lining up to fire on reviewers? Especially when it's a 4-star review? If it's so good, it will sell out in any case, regardless of all the bigging-up it's getting from the scenestars.

    What ridiculous knee jerk reactions.

    • Francine

      HAHAHAHAAAAAA 'ADC big guns'?!

    • George's Gran


  • Will Karani

    is a hottie


    Love how none of you haters are brave enough to post your oh so valid opinions on the varsity review because you'd have to post your names.

    • Obvious Question

      And you are….?

      • ermmm…

        your mum

  • Wannabee sorry

    Look guys, I've gone away and had a think, and I can't in all good conscience not retract everything I've put here. I hold my hands up, I've been ridiculous about all this. I was really angry, I've been trying to get into plays for a long time now, and I haven't really had a great deal of success yet, and I guess I needed to lash out at those ADC people who've been commenting on the Varsity review. I would have commented myself, but you know, it's difficult, my name would have come up, and then I really would be shooting myself in the foot if I wanted to audition for anything again. Also I guess I was a *bit* drunk….sorry. I mean, 'ADC Mafia'? It's a bit mad really, what ulterior motive could friends of the show have in showing their support for it? World domination? So yeah. I apologise. And when it comes down to it, this really is a fantastic show. Go see it.

    • Wannabee

      I didn't write this.

      Let me make it clear, I have not criticized the show at all.

      And I've been in lots of plays, and been incredibly successful.

    • Pathetic

      This is the worst part of the reaction so far. Get. Over. Yourself. You were in a decidedly mediocre play, that played on the fact that bereavement is an emotionally charged issue for a lot of people to mask the fact that the songs were average at best, the jokes were bad, and though the singing was good, it was an incredibly flat show.

      I don't think anyone could seriously deny that the ADC is cliquey, or that if this show had been somewhere else, with different people involved, those who reacted so aggressively wouldn't have jumped quite so quickly to its defense.

      You're selling well, you don't need to keep up this frantic 'GO AND SEE IT GO AND SEE IT' in every comment, just chill the fuck out and do a better show next time

  • Proportion

    Guys, this has gone way too far.

  • Ironically

    all the people who have been making such a fuss about this show have completely shot it in the foot. I saw Bereavement and enjoyed it, but significantly less than I would have if everyone hadn't gotten so fucking hysterical about it.
    Irritated that what could have been a great night at the theatre ended up being little more than disappointment.

  • I LOVE


  • Jamie Crawford

    Everyone always gives 4/5 on these shitty reviews. Get some fucking variety.

  • who cares

    about the show; i'm just concerned that this review is so poorly written.

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