CAITLIN DOHERTY blasts the bourgeoisie through the unconventional, but surprisingly relevant, medium of theatre reviewing.
Corpus Playroom, 15th-19th March, 7pm, £5-6
Directed by Ellie Nunn
You can tell a lot about a production from the font it uses in its publicity material. Life x3 went for Comic Sans and matched the inoffensive jollity of its chosen typeface with plenty of middle-class wine guzzling and a running gag based on chocolate fingers. What larks.
Trying to get laughs out of a near-empty playroom is admittedly a challenge, but one that’s made considerably easier by staging a show that your target university-student-audience can relate to without being reminded of that Jack Dee programme that their parents stock up on Kettle Chips to watch.
Ellie Nunn maintained a well-pitched naturalism in her performance as Sonia, bringing out a sexual and social mischievousness in her character’s reaction to an unfulfilling life as a thirty-something mother with a disappointing, if well paid, career. Facially, Nunn conveyed all the tiredness and frustration of Sonia with aplomb but was left looking lost on stage at a few notable moments when a more confident physical presence was lacking.
Stepping in at last notice for a dropout lead when you’re also directing can be a difficult job, and unfortunately Nunn’s performance visibly suffered from a lack of direction itself in the instances when she rocked awkwardly from foot to foot while delivering a speech that demanded a physical display of self-assuredness.
This confident physicality was never absent from Justin Blanchard’s performance as Henry, a part he gurned, simpered and crawled his way through to such an extent that the majority of his time on stage was spent either leaping in the air or moaning on the floor. It’s a credit to Blanchard that he kept the audience’s sympathy alive for what could have been an infuriatingly sycophantic character. His portrayal of Henry nodded to all the anxieties of contemporary bourgeois parenthood without artificially sentimentalising his adoration of his young child.
Of the four actors’ in Life x3, Blanchard was most able to vary the pace of his performance in a way that allowed the play’s tension to build naturally to some of its funniest climaxes, most memorably a silent breakdown that was communicated only by Blanchard’s adept employment of a Fisher Price stethoscope and a bottle of wine.
Lucie Shorthouse, as Inez, complemented Blanchard’s farcical style with a performance delivered in the tradition of Abigail’s Party, that is painful to watch but for all the right reasons. It was Shorthouse in fact who did most of the work in conveying the odiousness of her husband Hubert (Quentin Beroud) who could have pushed the slimy git aspects of his performance a little further and exploited his power over Henry to an even more uncomfortable extent.
The set was slapdash but the dialogue-driven plot meant the production never suffered for it. Subtle music and lighting cues worked well as indicators of the rewind conceit the play is built upon, though the rewinding of the actors themselves could have looked a little smoother and more convincing. If you’re going to add a surreal twist into a naturalistic piece, it’s got to look polished to be successful.
It was easy to imagine how Life x3 would have hit its stride in front of a larger and warmer audience and though you can’t criticise a show for not pulling in the crowds, the way it deals with the atmosphere created by a handful of observers in a small studio space reveals the versatility and overall success of the production. Ultimately Life x3 fell flat and lost its energy a few too many times and ended up collapsing, exhausted, at twenty past ten onto the infamous Corpus sofa with a bottle of wine and a boxset of something starring Tamsin Greig.