Sensitive performances in an emotional and powerful piece
Written by Ashley Ali and directed by Christopher Woodward, following a suitably impassioned introduction from Maggi Green, Likeminded Productions ‘Life After Life’ opens onto a hospital ward as we meet Jimmy (Peter Durr) and Eric (Bob Towers) who share the same room but have very different attitudes as they explore the loss and loneliness of life and death.
Who are these two characters? What have they been through? Where are they heading? It all becomes clear as we observe their contrasting behaviours to the situation they find themselves in: the ever-lackadaisical Eric much in contrast to the intensity of the oft-disturbed and sometimes deranged Jimmy with his all too familiar routines and distrust of those there to help – if they are there to help of course – including nurse Laura (Caitlin Bradley).
How would you feel if you were dying…well, how do you feel, isn’t it where we are all heading after all? Ali’s writing imagines the changing emotions of a moment we are all destined to meet but care not to think about until one is confronted by it and made all the harder when the cause is caught early enough to encounter but too late to treat. Well there’s always the ever-ticking clock in the background counting down – if you can hear it that is.
The characters are sympathetically written and portrayed, and you can forgive their behaviour in response to their fears. There’s a gentle use of humour in the right moments that evokes life and our approach to the challenges it throws up that was believable. Some of the dialogue was a little contrived early on – perhaps a cliché too far – and its delivery stilted on occasion although this may reflect a late enforced casting change which saw Durr pick up the mantle of the main character who he delivers with much dramatic effect, particularly with his monologues.
The simple but effective staging perfectly supports the script as we interchangeably move between bed and chair and the strong use of silences demonstrated the competence and confidence of the direction, and which was equally matched by the attention to detail played out on stage by the cast which led us perfectly into the interval on a hook.
I’m all for trying new ideas but the opening projection scene of the second half didn’t really work and perhaps wasn’t even necessary as I thought the chanted mantra from Towers rhythmically brought us back to the reality of the scene only too well as our hook was more than satisfyingly answered – although maybe a little more show than tell would be preferred – with sensitive performances leaving cast members and an almost full house audience in tears for the well-deserved applause at the conclusion of this emotional and powerful piece.
Likeminded Productions are a Liverpool based production company bringing modern drama to the stage. Their door is always open to upcoming writers and directors and they can be found at https://www.likemindedproductions.co.uk/
The Hope Street Theatre is a new and interchangeable fringe venue in the heart of Liverpool’s culture district that encourages and drives new work. Further details available at http://hopestreettheatre.com/
Life After Life performs at The Hope Street Theatre on 12th and 13th October 2018 with performances starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are available via both websites above. A two-night run does not do the production justice so hopefully it will return for further performances next year
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 12th October 2018
North West End Rating: ★★★