King’s Head, London – until 14 May 2017
Paul (Paul Thirkell) wanks to porn until he is a caught with his pants down (literally) by a ninja-clad invader brandishing a samurai sword. But it’s all ok – she is just making sure he isn’t a zombie in this post-apocalyptic world.
An exceptionally surreal set of dystopian apocalyptic circumstances forms the opening to Finlay Bain’s Living A Little. Produced by In Your Face Theatre (who are behind the current stage hit Trainspotting), this is a straight-talking, pulls no punches, blank faced comedy typical of the independent, indie style move scene – well in keeping with the production company’s work. From laddish, macho Rob (Bain), to overly camp, but honestly heterosexual, Paul (Thirkell), there is an immediate sense of blunt force dialogue that invader Penelope (Pearl Appleby) is only too happy to contribute to. Jordan Murphy directs the show with a similar no-nonsense attitude, the actors producing deadpan delivery that only serves to further highlight the surrealist absurdity of the situation.
Theatre often requires the audience to suspend disbelief as a classic means of conveying a tale with subtlety and accuracy. But Bain’s storyline is initially a difficult pill to swallow, unlike the drugs that each character effortlessly throws back, a treat to take the edge off the situation and remember the good old days before the world turned to shit. As such, the opening to Living A Little feels slow, despite the frantic storyline that explodes onto stage (not literally, thank God). Paul (Thirkell) in particular feels stunted and unsure, looking to Rob (Bain) for guidance and protection both in and out of character. The two make an unlikely pairing and eventually establish an affable chemistry that is further galvanised by Penelope’s (Appleby) unexpected arrival. Only then does the pressure is lift, the alcohol flow and the performers relax.
Bain’s script, while mainly absurd and at times lacking in pathos or narrative flow, is nevertheless crammed with witty innuendo that all the performers take full advantage of. But it also draws some interesting parallels between the show and the real world that can be further capitalised upon. The three end up living in a personal protective bubble, full of home comforts, and so are able to ignore the horror going on in the world around them. As long as the zombies don’t invade their personal haven, then it’s easy to pretend nothing is wrong. What’s the point of surviving if you don’t learn to live a little?
Theatre can often feel a bit like Living A Little – we can sit in our protective black box, auditorium or site-specific location and highlight the problems of the world while sipping a glass of wine and enjoying our creature comforts. Sometimes it takes something even more absurd to snap us out of our own fantasy world – this appears to be the subverted message inherent in this production. Conceptually the point comes across, but not powerfully enough to snap us out of our privileged stupor.