Edinburgh Fringe 2013
As a hypochondriac but Martin is taken aback when the results he has been waiting for turn out to prove he has immortality. He returns to the bosom of his friends to complain; unsurprisingly they don’t know what he has to complain about. They plan and hold his funeral to which his parents come before he jumps out the coffin, very nearly sending his parents directly into it in his place. Of course he ends up finding out what he does have is far from being immortality and he has to record on video a message we would all hope we can avoid ourselves.
Martin goes to the doctors to find out what his latest set of results say. To discover he has a unique illness may be good for a hypochondriac but immortality comes as quite a blow. It’s not that he never wanted to have it, as a hypochondriac there is little by way of medical ailment that he has not wished upon himself before now. What he is looking for though is some peace and the idea of living forever only seems to prolong his absolute agony. Unwilling to miss out on the eulogies that would come at his funeral he is persuaded to hold his own. Touching speeches are heard from friends and family before he reveals to all in attendance that he is still alive. Of course living forever is not what his illness is and when he finds out that he has little time left he decides to go abroad and leave a message for his friends.
I have to say that, despite the preposterous premise this works fairly well. The script is quite believable and whilst it may not win the Pulitzer it has enough pull within itself to drag you through to its other side. For Martin that was the agony of believing you are going to live forever then finding out you will only have a short time left. For the supporting cast there was enough material for fleshed out characters to pitch – apart from the parents. It has to be said though that their role was so minor it hardly detracted. I did think though that we were at the early stages of this and there was far more material that had not been tried out. I would like to see this develop further and perhaps the supporting characters being used to describe Martin’s own behaviour as a hypochondriac; it may lead to greater poignancy towards the end.
Each actor gave us their all in what was a good wee ensemble piece. Each in turn gave creditable performances though Martin had to lead the way. He did so with ease.
The staging was bare with some chairs and once again there is nothing much to criticise as the performances were what the piece focussed in on. It made for a good evening as everything happened when they should have and all was where it should be when people needed to sit.
Paired down theatre at the Fringe can be a hit or miss affair and at times I have been left wondering why I should wade through so much new writing. I have to say that the idea behind this was funny. I think they should work on making it more – much more – gut wrenchingly funny but it made me giggle and amused me. It can make things more worthwhile when you happen upon something that can work, even if it isn’t quite there yet. Life Sentence struck me as being exactly that – on its way with a definite destination – just needing a little push in the general direction.
The audience that attended with me were highly appreciative and you got the feeling that this was quite a critical audience rather than just papered with friends and other companies. It worked on quite a few levels but could just do with a general tidy. Then it could be quite hilarious.