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Until Death – theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

This show is precisely the sort of late-night chaos that the Edinburgh Fringe has become renowned for – at least for those who still have the stamina for a show just after 10:00pm when their first show (or six or seven) that day would have been just after 10:00am. A lot goes on in an unnamed hospital where the scenes are set, with the hustle and bustle, as well as long waiting times, lend themselves well to the inpatient experience in the National Health Service. The only parts of the show that are specifically set in Britain, however, are courtesy of Mike Rose, who (if I’ve understood correctly) breaks character as a facilities assistant to tell the audience about the smell in the room, which purportedly dates back from the venue’s history – Surgeons’ Hall once contained many donated specimens of body parts.

UNTIL DEATHNalini Sharma plays a variety of characters with a mixture of hilarity and sensitivity – an older woman, for instance, talks candidly about the challenges of not being able to get around like she used to. Mike comes in, still trying to neutralise ‘the smell’, only to discover it is, at least in this ward, the patient, who has access to a commode but also uses adult nappies. Yeah, it’s toilet humour, but there’s also, without being preachy, a point made about impossible demands being made on hospital staff as well as patients: the patient is asked to try to restrict her bowel movements until the new order of adult nappies comes in, because the hospital has run out. As you will have figured out, if she could restrict her bowel movements, she wouldn’t need adult nappies.

Anthropomorphism also features, in the form of Nalini taking on the form of a bat, complete with dark wings. It’s relatively rare to come across a show where audience participation genuinely adds to the comedy value: at the performance I attended, an invitation for volunteers to fully bring a scene to life resulted in one person using their hat to shield their face. There are no prizes for guessing who Nalini invited on stage.

The relatives of inpatients are recognisable, including the youngster who is interested only in listening to their music through headphones which nonetheless bleed noise, and the woman whose determined effort to choose optimism over despair clouds her ability to accept stark reality. There are laughs a minute in this bonkers but brilliant production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Nalini Sharma – Until Death @ theSpace Surgeons Hall – 22.10 (4th – 12th & 14th – 26th)

Until Death is a solo theatre and clown show with a touch of circus, set in a hospital where time collapses and humans panic in moments of death and existence. Inspired by her childhood, during which she survived more than one motorcycle accident, the stories are an amalgamation of the real people (and animals) she encountered and her imagination that kept her from dying of boredom during her hospital stays. Through them she explores the tenacity of human (and animal) spirits that are fighting for their lives and discovering who they are.

In Los Angeles, Nalini has built quite the reputation in the comedy theater, clown community and in Film/TV (with Guest Star appearances on The Rookie, NCIS, Modern Family etc). Nalini was hand picked by Steve Martin for his Materclass. She wrote Birdie & Blanche, a 2016 Sundance New Voices Lab finalist and was selected for the 2018 CBS comedy showcase. In 2019, her short film Garbage was an official selection at HBO’s Women In Comedy Festival and her TV pilot Crooked, was a semi finalist at the Screencraft writing fellowship. Most recently she was selected for the prestigious Blacklist = WIF lab.

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