Brighton Fringe 2019
Death, a bit grim! but does it have to be that way? This is a funny, reflective and honest show about death.
Antonia Beck and Lucy Nicholls bring Death to a comedy festival. Focusing on their personal understanding and experience of mortality we see how their own fear of death pushed them into trying to better understand it.
Before the show starts Antonia and Lucy move through the audience asking us to write down interesting ways to die. The ease with which they intermingle with the audience sign-posts the feel and tone of the show, building an immediate connection, warming us to them.
We begin the show at Antonia and Lucy’s funeral. We hear their life stories, finding out about their achievements, their friends and how they died. Whilst we’re removed from the emotional intensity of directly attending a funeral of people we know and love, it’s very hard not to wonder what our own ending will be like.
The second half of the show moves away from their funeral and we come to understand how they embarked on a search for meaning in both life and death. They tell us of their experiences in investigating the subject. Together we visit a psychic spiritualist and examine scientific, cultural and philosophical aspects of death as well as addressing the practicalities of carcass management.
Antonia and Lucy are clearly confident performers. They share a good understanding, with lines, jokes and speeches well delivered, there are neat scene changes and the odd surprise. They capably mix sketches, jokes, storytelling into a strong, warmly delivered, narrative arc.
Whilst this is all very positive, there are some elements of the show that may benefit from further development.
One scene features a brilliantly written and delivered, but hard-edged, speech about death. Unfortunately, the weak punchline leads the audience to laugh in relief when a stronger finish could produce a deeper and more genuine response.
One high-point was the northern psychic, who bursts on stage with energy, enthusiasm, satire, some great gags and a bit more bite. The audience responded strongly to her and more of this would enhance the piece. Unfortunately, the psychic’s warm up character didn’t work so well. Perhaps an alternative character, based more on the actor’s individual strengths would serve better.
As a 55-year-old, I’m aware my relationship to death differs from a younger perspective. Personally, I’d like to have seen the show a little more hard-edged, in your face. For me the elements that tackled the subject in this way were the most successful. However, with the given risk of causing unnecessary distress and anxiety, perhaps knowing where and when to push the boundaries is better left to the performers than the reviewer.
Certainly, Antonia and Lucy don’t shirk from putting death front and centre and the cleverness of the show lies in making us think about our relationship to life’s ending. The show is never preachy, simply offering honest, personal responses to a difficult subject.
The audience viewed the show positively and selling out The Death Show at 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, clearly shows they’re doing something right.
This is a good show, well worth seeing. It’s a gentle stroll through the valley of death, thoughtful, engaging and well put together. Antonia and Lucy are clever, warm and comforting. There is real reason to believe they will carry on producing interesting and challenging comedy drama.