"Atmospheric, engaging exploration of life"
by Elizabeth Eyre for remotegoat on 19/10/11

Veronika Decides to Die tells the story of an attractive and successful woman in her mid twenties who decides to end her life. She takes an overdose and wakes up in a mental institution where she is told she has irrevocably damaged her heart and will die in a few days. Sadly, this stage adaptation owes more to the 2009 film than to it does to the 1999 Paulo Coelho book and as such lacks much of the book's vitality and subtlety.

There are some interesting additions including Uda Morel as Giovanna, a patient who believes herself to be some sort of starlet, and drew titters from the audience each time she appeared in increasingly outlandish costumes. Anna Lott and Caroline Lawton were outstanding as the nurses - both radiating natural warmth and humanity and performing with such ease that it is hard to believe their dialogue is not improvised.

Alice Marshall's portrayal of Veronika is thoughtful and engaging. James Wiles's performance as Edward is sensitive and authentic. Katie Alexander-Thom shines in her contrasting roles as Amy, a disturbed ex-soldier and the strange seductive visitor.

The music is well chosen and indeed, tonally the whole piece works well and is propped up by solid performances, however the main thrust of the story - looses some of its poignancy in the medley of short scenes. In the book consciousness of Veronika's time running out adds urgency, horror and exciting to everything she encounters - in this adaptation this feeling is vaguer and muted as the audience are hurried through glimpses of the peripheral characters.

This production benefits from sensitive direction and a strong cast, but it is a shame that the adaptation didn't draw more on Paulo Coelho's book, which would have made for a richer, more ambitious piece of theatre.

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