THE LIFE AND SORT OF DEATH OF ERIC ARGYLE
by Ross Dungan.
Soho Theatre (Upstairs) 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 20 April 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.15pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 April.
Individual comedy of life before and after death.
This is a funny play about death. A road-crossing accident does for Eric, but the complexities people can leave behind, especially when several years too young (Eric is/was 58) to have thought about making arrangements, is what playwright Ross Dungan explores in his briskly intertwining scenes. And that’s as open to chance as the fatal moment itself.
Dungan roots around in Eric’s youth and emotional life in Ireland, showing the quirky ways in which a life is not so much constructed as comes, seemingly haphazardly, together. In his focus on the minutiae of the local shop, Dungan shows a similar elaborate wryness over detail as Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane (with McDonagh it’s biscuits, with Dungan pencils).
Director Dan Herd keeps the action moving between disparate characters and different locations, his cast energetic as they move between scenes as well as playing vividly within them, restraining the sense of wonder at events and thereby increasing such a sense among the audience. No strangeness of behaviour or manner is overtly acknowledged; in such communities the unusual can seem natural. If there’s strangeness at all, it comes in the acquired manner of the older people young Eric and his lively friend encounter, such as the teacher Aldershot and inquisitive Mrs Quillmore, daily seeking the latest edition of her magazine at the shop, more for the journey than the hope it will be there.
Eric’s accident doesn’t end it all for him. Instead he’s up for some kind of post-terminal assessment, an idea that promotes the free-form moves of action below in time and space. Designer Colm McNally clutters elements of the various locations together, and as cast members weave round them, the sense of a life in parts, and parts of lives, comes together. The cloak of judgment is lightly worn, in keeping with the element of fantasy and fiction – Eric’s been writing and posting (to the wrong person) his life story, and the whole is fitfully narrated from the paperback of his life.
This isn’t a play that needs to exist; but seeing it does, it’s one to enjoy.
Gillian: Siobhán Cullen.
Roger: Rachel Gleeson.
Mr Downey/Craig: Manus Halligan.
Mr Aldershot: Davey Kelleher.
Young Eric/Sam: Emmet Kirwan.
Eric: Dave McEntegart.
Julia/Imelda/Mrs Quillmore: Erica Murray.
Jessica/Receptionist: Karen Sheridan.
Director: Dan Herd.
Designer: Colm McNally.
Lighting: Ali Brady.
Composer: Rob Kearns.
Musical Director: Neil Fitzpatrick.
Costume: Emma Gleeson.
Assistant director: Heather Walsh.