This is Living is a weepy in the David Nicholls mould, effectively and sometimes shamelessly pressing the audience’s emotional buttons; at least a third of the people there on press night were openly sobbing.
The two-man play begins with Michael (Michael Socha, This Is England) standing over what appears to be the soggy corpse of his wife Alice (Tamla Kari, The Inbetweeners Movie). She splutters into life and claims to have a raging hangover, but after a little cross examination it becomes clear that she is indeed dead, her physical form now just a metaphor for the grief of the husband she’s left behind.
The play flits between the present-day and various milestones in the couple’s relationship, often snapping from one to the other mid-sentence. It requires some screeching changes ofpace from the two actors – despairing cries turn to howling laughs, contentment flicks to sorrow – and both take this in their stride.
Socha is particularly likeable, essentially reprising his role in This Is England, and he swings the biggest emotional punches; a monologue to his dead mother asking her to take care of his wife, who will be arriving shortly, is a real tear-jerker.
It takes place on a small stage covered into a shallow paddling pool by a sheet of tarpaulin, which represents grassy river-banks and rain-swept streets. I’m sure it was conceived as metaphor for death being ever-present, but it doesn’t really work: it just made me feel sorry for the actors who have to roll about in it night after night.
But it’s a small gripe: This Is Living is a tight, if rather risk-adverse, debut by Liam Borrett, delivered with enough conviction to reduce a roomful of adults to quivering wrecks.