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A Brief List of Everyone Who Died – at Finborough Theatre

This is a most unusual play which does exactly what it says in the title. Graciela (Vivia Font) first experiences death at the age of five, when her dog, Buster, dies: “the most normal thing in the world” as her mother, Anne (Kathryn Akin) says. We then follow Graciela’s life until she reaches her mid 80s, someone close to her dying in each scene. One of the problems with the writing (Jacob Marx Rice) is that because we know almost immediately what is going to happen there is very little tension or surprise, especially as Graciela reacts in a very similar way each time. For those in the audience who have recently experienced the death of someone close to them, this play should perhaps best be avoided! The Finborough’s publicity blurb states that the play is “wickedly funny” which it isn’t and “deeply humane” which in a strange way it is, at its best.

A Brief List of Everyone Who Died. Credit Philm.
A Brief List of Everyone Who Died. Credit Philm.

Font is superb in role, successfully physically ageing from young girl to mischievous senior citizen during the course of ninety minutes, and appearing in every scene. She uses very subtle facial expressions and her hands fluidly to create a very believable role which is always watchable, as well as having a warm, homely voice. It does not matter that occasionally lines are unsure, that only makes the character seem more ‘human’.

The word ‘warm’ also applies to her mother, Anne, and Akin imbues this character with so much understanding that we wish she was our mother, and her death is the most poignant of all. She is at her best when dealing with Graciela as a teenager in love for the first time: “But to put your deepest feelings out there for someone to shoot down, that’s pretty hard too maybe.”

Cass (Amelia Campbell) appears under-used during the first half of the play, especially, like the rest of the cast, she is sitting in full view the whole time, which does make the small thrust stage acting area seem very crowded. No one is ever alone even when they need to be! Cass is Graciela’s partner with whom she adopts a child: another fully rounded portrayal, especially in the final scene of the play, even if the director, Alex Howarth, is determined to over -direct when the script calls for simplicity.

Various male roles are played by Siphiwo Mahlentle and Alejandro De Mesa.

The design (Alice McNicholas) calls for many videos (Rachel Sampley), including a smartphone text conversation, to be projected onto the backcloth which is stretched vertically but not horizontally, therefore often making the projections difficult to see clearly, especially by members of the audience sitting at the sides, as well as being distracting: one finds oneself trying to decipher the pictures when we should be concentrating on what is happening in the play live!

Overall, though, this is a play in which the playwright addresses death in a moving and thoughtful way.

4 stars

Review by John Groves

“Death is the most natural thing in the world.”
“Natural doesn’t mean good. Hurricanes are natural. Haemorrhoids are natural.”

A BRIEF LIST OF EVERYONE WHO DIED
by Jacob Marx Rice.
Directed by Alex Howarth. Set Design by Alex Howarth and Alice McNicholas. Costume Design by Alice McNicholas. Lighting and Video Design by Rachel Sampley.
Presented by Patch of Blue Theatre in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.
Cast: Kathryn Akin. Amelia Campbell. Alejandro De Mesa. Vivia Font. Siphiwo Mahlentle.

http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/

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Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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