Review: Hell of a Life

MARK DANCIGER does not rate this tired and badly paced show.

Cambridge Comedy hell of a life hell of a play lolz Magdalene new writing Shit shocking standard Theatre
Comedy writing is a hard nut to crack. It’s all too easy for a playwright to get caught up in setting up what seems to them to be an amusing punchline, only to criminally neglect the rest of the scene. Unfortunately this seems to be what has happened with ‘Hell of a Life’.

The concept, though not particularly original, has potential. Theo (Yaseen Kader) and Steph (Emma Veares), have died and been sent to hell. Hell, however, turns out to be much like normal life, and Theo and Steph soon enter into a relationship, despite the occasional horrific tortures, mandatory Paradise Lost reading groups and limited theatre offerings (Dr Faustus is permanently the only show in town).

However the show completely fails to achieve its potential. It plays out like a series of mediocre sketches, none of which are particularly funny in isolation, nor add much to the overall story. Occasional decent punchlines (an Avril Lavigne-themed gag was genuinely clever) were lost in baggy, over-long scenes, separated by torturously extended blackouts.

Equally problematic were the constant unnecessary contemporary references. You’d have thought that comedians would have moved on from Jimmy Saville and Gary Glitter jokes long ago, but here they are, alongside gags about Twilight (yawn), Hitler (bigger yawn), and even a particularly tasteless sequence about Margaret Thatcher.

Worse than the ill-advised comedy was the cringe-worthy attempt to craft a love story. The relationship between Theo and Steph was unconvincing from the start and only got worse, due to the clunky dialogue and forced sentimentality.

Nevertheless the actors gave it their all, and there were some truly commendable performances. In particular Lottie Franklin was excellent as the gratingly positive devil Lucy Fir, forming a neat double act with Sasha Brooks’ sarcastic demon Belle Zebub. There were also moments of brilliance from the chorus – Alex Bell’s scene stealing shop assistant provided one of the biggest laughs of the show. Kader and Veares tried their hardest also, but just couldn’t make the script work.


In short, this was not a good show, and you’d be better served going to see the excellent No Way Out at the Corpus Playroom if you’re looking for a slice of hell-set drama this week.

However, the team behind Hell of a Life shouldn’t take it too hard. Everyone puts on a bad play at some point- they are just lucky to have gotten it out of the way early


Two stars