"Wake is full of life"
by Andy MOSELEY for remotegoat on 31/07/12

A play set at a wake can normally go one of two ways. It will either turn into a sombre musing on death and the brevity of life, or become a black comedy where death is as undignified as the lives of the people surviving. From the moment you learn how the severed head of Paul's uncle was vandalised by the youths who found it, you know that 'Wake' will definitely fall into the latter category, and is all the better for it.

The wake itself is primarily the setting for the rest of the play as Paul and Eddie meet up for the first time in years and learn that they have not been living their lives as separately as they thought. Mark Kavanagh's sharp script is well structured and well written, we meet Eddie and Paul as they discuss the death and life of Paul's uncle and the banter between the two drives the play until the two main strands of the story - Eddie's failure to get his dream job, and Paul's girlfriend leaving him before he could propose to her - are introduced. Inevitably Paul has a role in Eddie's failure to get a job, and Eddie has a role in Paul's girlfriend leaving him, but it's how they try to avoid the other realising this that creates some of the best comedy, alongside their reactions when they discover each other's involvement and Eddie's attempts to solve their respective predicaments.

There's a few moments where the script gets reflective with Paul and Eddie thinking back on young love and missed opportunities, but this is not a play that is ever in danger of slipping into melancholy and you know the next absurd moment or wounding insult is always just around the corner.

Mark Kavanagh and Barry Wilson play the two school mates and give strong individual performances as well as convincing collectively as people with a shared past. Particular credit goes to Wilson for stepping into the role at very late notice and making it his own on the first night.

If you want heavyweight social commentary about the human condition then avoid this like the plague. If you want a play that shows how good comedy comes from what people say and the people that say it, at least as much as from the situations they find themselves in, then go and see Wake. You won't be disappointed.

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