Soho Theatre, London – until 3 December 2016
William is going through a rough time. Newly separated from his partner and the mother of his son, he’s sleeping in his office and contemplating the path that led him to this situation. As he walks to his ex’s house, he shares choices, anecdotes and memories to the ether but few of them are endearing. Actually, most of them showcase a character that is self-absorbed and entitled, and delivered with casual flatness. Adrian Edmondson’s latest work, an adaptation of the memoirs of the same title by William Leith, lacks charm, theatricality and a likeable character. Whilst the goal of addressing male mid-life crises is an admirable one, the execution is ineffective and uninteresting.
Edmondson portrays William as articulate and sensitive, but the rambling, stream-of-conscious script moves at a brisk pace with little variation in rhythm or tone. He largely glosses over the subtlety of the language, and there is little emotional expression. The moments where he does display vulnerability are lovely, but they are too infrequent to redeem the piece from the drudgery of someone who has lost their way and refuses to do anything about it. It’s a frustrating experience – the script has plenty of room for connection with the text and the audience – both are largely ignored.
Lily Arnold’s set and Amy Mae’s lighting are excellent, though. As boring as the performance is, the design is fun and colourful. Children’s toys are suspended from neon rope lights over a pristine white stage; these toys are lit when William talks about them: a playhouse is his home, the Beano is a newspaper.
There’s something fundamentally indulgent about a one-person show focused on the experience of being in the midst of an existential midlife crisis. There is no further agenda or message in the piece for the audience to take away, the character generates little empathy and Edmondson’s delivery prevents any real connection with the audience. Whilst I’m sure there is a demographic of middle aged men who will gravitate to this piece, Bits of Me Are Falling Apart is otherwise alienating and dull.