Nicolai Erdman, adap Rebekah Harrison
Friday, 28 February – Saturday, 14 March 2020; 110min
This new adaptation by Rebekah Harrison of Russian playwright Nicolai Erdman’s The Suicide is part of the 11th season of Storyhouse Originals performed by the resident repertory company.
The plot is transposed from 1920s Russia to 21st century Chester, where Simon and Marie Little (Tom Davey and Natasha Bain) and Marie’s mother, Sarah (Nicola Blackman at this performance) have fallen on hard times. From a home of their own they now live in low key rented accommodation with an exploitative landlord, Alexander (Tim Frances).
Unemployed and unable to find work, Simon contemplates suicide. Alexander sees an opportunity to exploit the situation financially by ‘selling’ Simon’s suicide to various interest groups –disaffected white men, the church, the media, selfie fixated adolescents, and climate change activists. Theatrically, this should build up into an enormous tragicomic joke, a sideswipe at austerity Britain and widespread corruption, and an increasing tension about whether or not he will pull the trigger.
This doesn’t quite come off: the dramatic tension in Michael Bryher's production is dissipated by moving the action of the play to the bar and restaurant area, where a razzamatazz episode takes place involving choirs, dancers, DJs and the whole media circus that has come to see Simon’s "suicide". The audience then returns to the auditorium for the final 30 minutes, uncertain whether Simon has indeed killed himself.
The comedy is more farce than black humour and many characters are more stereotypical than creatively authentic. But strong performances from Davey and Bain as the struggling couple and Blackman, who stood in at the last minute as the mother, added significantly to the drama and humour of the play.
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