‘This is Living’ takes place on a small stage soaked in water. A sodden platform that confines the two central characters in a purgatory-like space for the play’s two-hour duration.
As the action unfolds we see that this minimalist setting works perfectly with the narrative themes; drifting through memories that cling to our protagonists like the water dripping from their clothing, washing away blood and cleansing them of their pain and grief. But this can’t be the only reason for such a large vessel, presumably it was designed to hold the collective tears of the audience, as this reviewer, along with many others, was a sobbing mess come the final act.
‘This is Living’ is the debut of writer and director Liam Borrett. It follows Alice and Michael, a young couple struggling to say goodbye in the aftermath of Alice’s death. The action cross-cuts between various points in their relationship, flipping between the tragic realty of their situation and the early stages of their budding romance. At times these transitions work well, jumping from one extreme to the other, but in other instances they seem unnecessary, interrupting the flow of underdeveloped scenes and relying too heavily on the same transitional technique.
Tamla Kari gives a mesmerising performance as Alice, charming us all with her blunt honesty and unflappable confidence. Michael Socha, as Michael, shows that his West End debut will be the first of many, providing the stoic centre around which the story plays out. But it’s the chemistry between the two that draws us in and lifts the play above what could have been a maudlin experience. Witnessing the highs and lows of this loveable couple, we sympathise to the very last, watching as they face the painful realities of love, loss and heartache.
How do we say goodbye to the people we love? Or how will we react when that moment finally comes? It’s not for ‘This is Living’ to say, but as we wipe away the tears and hope that no one has noticed our dripping nose, we’re left feeling like we might be a little bit closer to the answers, or at least slightly better prepared than when we first took our seats.
‘This is Living’ is playing at Trafalgar Studios until June 11th.