The Space on the Mile (Venue 39), Edinburgh
4-24 August 2018
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Breathing Corpses, by Split Brick and New Celts at The Space on the Mile, leaves a nasty taste in the mouth at times. This is entirely intentional, as it is a decidedly nihilistic study of death, which seeks to confront difficult issues head-on. If this production does not always rise to the task, it certainly does not shy away from it.
Laura Wade’s play – with its circularity, tricksy time scheme and focus on death – is a difficult one to pull off, and this production is decidedly patchy.
Claire McCarragher, as hotel cleaner Amy who has an unnerving habit of finding dead bodies, is a fascinatingly guileless figure, appearing to find the world consistently surprising and disappointing. Danielle Jam is excellent in two roles as a superficially charming hotel guest and a put-upon employee of a self-storage facility.
The other performances are more problematic, which is not necessarily the fault of the performers themselves. The play’s structure is certainly intriguing, but beyond an apparent belief that the only things certain in this life are death and yet more death, it has little to say.
The characters’ motivations are opaque, and their relationships unexplained, to the point that they are difficult to believe in; Wade has certainly written more satisfactory plays since this one.
Christina Kostopoulou, as a self-obsessed business executive and Hartley Fraser, as her toyboy lover, both turn in committed performances, but it is not easy to work out how these two ended up in such a destructive partnership in the first place.
Similarly, Greg Sives (storage facility owner Jim) and Jenny Tamplin (his wife Elaine) never quite convince as an unhappy middle-aged couple. Individually, they are interesting enough –Tamplin particularly so – but they suffer from the play’s seeming belief that the living are only the walking dead anyway. Therefore, probing into their inner life (beyond what they think about corpses) is pointless.
Ian Dunn’s direction and Danielle El Jorr’s tech give the production a pace and atmosphere that sustains the interest throughout. This, together with the integrity of the acting, helps to give shape to a production that has definite flaws but also a great deal of interest.
Running time 1 hour 20 minutes (no interval)
TheSpace on the Mile (Venue 39), 80 High St, EH1 1TH
Saturday 4 – Friday 24 August 2018 (even dates only)
Even dates only at 3.45 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/breathing-corpses
Company Facebook: @splitbricktheatre
The script is available through Amazon. Click image for details: