Vaults, London – until 26 February 2017
Rob and Paul are best mates, albeit total polar opposites. They share a cozy bachelor pad where they engage in typical mid-20s, male behaviour – drinking, weight lifting, discussing women in graphic detail and fighting off zombies. Well into the zombie apocalypse, the lads lucked out – solar panels and generators keep them in heat and electricity, and they secured their block of flats so the undead can’t get in. But when a masked intruder turns up, their groove is properly disrupted. Dark comedy Living A Little is a post-apocalyptic genre mashup that’s polished and unexpectedly poignant.
Finlay Bain is Rob, a Scottish lad’s lad irreverent to the core. He thrives on being offensive, but this veneer is just that – as it chips away, it reveals the hint of a lovely character arc. More stereotypical is Paul (Paul Thirkel), played as a joyously camp straight man. Whilst the two constantly wind each other up, the affection between them is clear. It’s a great dynamic, though one that could use a touch more light and shade. Most developed is Penelope (Jessica Manning), the weary, battle-hardened survivor that challenges the status quo of the boys’ little world. There’s great chemistry and spiky tension in the cast, which helps drive the action forward in the script’s slower moments. Even though there’s some slightly over-written dialogue, the performers are fun to watch.
Bain is also the writer; his script sometimes slows a bit too much with a shortage of suspense, but otherwise ticks along at a good pace and has a solid ending. He has a good sense for character development and text-based comedy but surprises with just the right amount of emotional vulnerability from each character and a couple of great plot twists. Though the zombie apocalypse trope is the primary driver of the story, friendship and resilience in the face of disaster are also important. It makes for a good balance and more depth than a typical genre story.
What’s the point of surviving a zombie apocalypse if you can’t live a little? It’s a valid point that Rob makes, even if Penelope disagrees. The juxtaposition of positivity within disaster and intuitive storytelling make this play worth watching.