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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Brighton 2012 arrow Cheer Up, It Might Never Happen
Cheer Up, It Might Never Happen
Published on Tuesday, 08 May 2012

3 stars

The Nightingale (venue website)
6-8 May, 7:00pm-8:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 World Premiere.

This is a play about suicide.  It’s also a play about friendship, tenderness… and remembering to cancel the milk.  Our nameless protagonist, a practical office manager with a few secrets in her personal life, has decided to kill herself this evening – and before she meets her maker, she’s a few tasks to complete.

So what would be on your to-do list, in your final hours?  Do you bother with loose ends at work?  Where would you leave your keys?  Most painfully, what would you write, in that final letter?  We barely dare to ask ourselves that kind of question – but this play both poses them, and gives us permission to laugh at the answers.

Maybe some of the gags are a little bit laboured, and maybe the pace is a little bit slow.  But suicide as a comedy of manners is surprisingly entertaining, and – when the script turns serious, later on – the early ice-breaking proves its worth.  It builds a connection with a character who would otherwise seem frighteningly far away, and the well-structured series of interruptions build a compellingly rounded back-story without ever seeming forced.  Maggie Gordon-Walker impresses in her role, dryly selling the understated humour, but able to turn on the emotion when it’s needed too.

But, much as I enjoyed this play, I felt it had a couple of truly fundamental flaws.  Most importantly, we never learn what’s driven this character to the threshold of her own death, and why she’s able to confront her demise so calmly.  We know she’s not terminally ill, so it’s fair to assume she’s in the grip of despair – yet what comes across from both script and acting is just ordinary regret, like you might feel if you were starting a new life in Australia.  I find it sad that, having cleverly broken down the taboos around suicide, the play doesn’t really discuss the issues at all.

And then there’s the ending, which was always going present a challenge to this particular plot.  There’s a sense that playwright Sophie Kingshill ended up in a corner, unable to cut free of the web she’s spun – and resorted, in the end, to a kind of a joke.  It’s quite realistic, I suppose, but theatre’s meant to be better than life, and after an hour spent riding the script’s emotional see-saw we deserved a more substantial resolution.

Make no mistake, though – this play’s worth seeing, and there’s plenty both to laugh and to think about.  Most telling for me was the realisation that, for all her resolutely pragmatic exterior, she does have people she cares about… and people who care about her.  It’s an age-old message, yes; but it bears repeating again.  And I’ll gladly watch this play again, if it returns with a little more insight to share.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.