|"A poignant comedy about grief"|
by Lettie Mckie for remotegoat on 14/11/15
An unexpectedly funny look at bereavement new play Staying Alive, currently showing at the Pleasance Islington, defies its inescapably grim subject matter. Written by Kat Roberts in collaboration with charity SLOW it tells the story of a mother who loses her only child in a tragic domestic accident. Mary (sensitively portrayed by Rachel Nott) tries to go on with her life after the death of her son as her well-meaning but ineffectual friends Jenn (Eleanor Burke) and Jack (Alexander Pankhurst)attempt to help.
In cringe worthy dinner party scenes reminiscent of Mike Leigh's classic Abigail's Party Jenn her husband and friends make hideous gaffs in Mary's presence tied up by their own discomfort. Painfully accurate to real life these scenes show us how people can so easily react inappropriately to the grief of others as it is nigh on impossible to understand what they are going through.
Roberts script stands out because it is highly original, nuanced and enlightening. She offers no easy solutions or platitudes, but rather relies on deeply observed social comedy to reveal how real empathy can be achieved. A final reconciliation between Mary and Alexander makes a powerfully uplifting conclusion.
Although some of the finer details of the production were slapdash (a few inappropriate costumes and an unnecessary use of theatrical movement to suggest flashbacks) the production is out of the ordinary due largely in part to the strength of the writing and in part to the sensitively controlled performances that make it compelling from start to finish.
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