Review: The Man Who Sold His Life
A heart-warming tale about appreciating the beauty of the everyday
The Man Who Sold His Life tells the story of ‘the Man’, who, having left everything from his passport to his job behind after, quite literally, selling his life on eBay, is desperate to start again.
On his quest for a National Insurance number, he realises through his newfound friendship with the comical Katie that the past he was so desperate to leave behind may in fact hold the answers to understanding his future.
I will admit that I entered the Corpus playroom armed with many questions, from the logistics of how one actually goes about selling their life, to which is the best evening quiz show (turns out it definitely isn’t Tipping Point!). However, once the actors had taken their bows, this wonderfully touching production had succeeded in answering these and many more.
Although, that said, the mystery of what a National Insurance number is actually for unfortunately still prevails.
What began as a light-hearted and farcical comedy, as Katie (Dominika Wiatrowska) took to the stage with a comic clue-in on a day in the life of ‘Head of PR for Immigration’ (think wastepaper-bin-basket-ball kind of boredom!), gradually developed into a richly beautiful story of how we deal with trauma and manage to carry on when nothing turns out as we expect.
The storytelling from writer Arthur Roadnight was particularly masterful. With moments of ‘The Man’s’ past life slicing through the narrative with a keen emotional intensity, it was up to the audience to slowly discover the details of what had led him to give it all up – a sort of theatrical scavenger hunt peppered with poignant moments at which you couldn’t help but crack a smile.
The wonderful music choices acted as the go-between through the past and present, and whilst expertly riffing off the on-stage action, they also made for extremely effective storytelling.
The audience was guided into a past that provided bitesize snapshots of the tragedies and wonders of everyday life. These were led by Ella (Gwynn Horbury), who displayed a remarkable sensitivity to character, delivering the rise and fall of the story with an expert light touch.
Indeed, the whole cast bought a certain realism to the writing which is deceptively hard to capture, making you feel a fly on the wall in moments and conversations that you’re sure you’ve seen before or experienced yourself, sparking a sense of empathy that stays with you throughout.
A particular mention must go to Macsen Llewelyn who played ‘The Man’, leading us through his life with depth and hilarity in equal measure. Everything from his movement to his silences acted as a valuable gem of insight into this intriguing and unique character, also the result of some undoubtedly stellar direction by Sean O’Neil, as assisted by Charlotte Dargan and Fred Upton.
The play is based on the unconventional true story of Ian Usher, who, after a painful divorce, announced to the world in 2008 that he planned to auction his entire life on eBay in a quest to start again, and ended up buying a Caribbean island.
However, where Usher became a pioneer of the unexpected and an advocate for ‘the freedom lifestyle’, the message here ends up being rather different. Moving away from the unusual and unplanned, The Man Who Sold his Life takes a long hard look at the little things in life, the things we tend to forget to appreciate, and the things we fail to give ourselves space to come to terms with.
Swapping Caribbean islands for studio apartments, and world travelling for a warm sofa, what starts as a lesson in finding adventure ends with a renewed understanding that perhaps the greatest adventure can be found right here where we stand – even in the rather unsuspecting location of Croydon town!
The Man Who Sold His Life is a warm reminder to appreciate what you have and is running at the Corpus Playroom at 21.30 from Tue 18th January 2022 to Sat 22nd January 2022. Get your tickets here.
Feature image credits (poster design credits): Sam Riley