The Life We Lived - Theatre Review

The Life We Lived follows the relationship between a quiet, slightly withdrawn funeral director – as he says, it isn’t the best chat up line – and the woman who will eventually become a corpse that he prepares for burial.

Written by Matt Fox, It is a love story that spans life and death, love and hate, potential and disappointment. It is an endearing and absorbing mix of reality and fantasy.

Steve Cowley as Michael addresses us directly for much of the play, drawing us into his story. Hannah (Heather Davies) is a little more shadowy. Although feisty and independent, she never feels quite as substantial as Michael, contributing to the slightly uncertain sense that we aren’t sure exactly what is going on.

We first meet Michael in the funeral business he has grown up with, and taken on from his father. He is preparing Hannah, whom he once met, for her funeral. Fox’s writing is particularly strong in the monologue sections where Michael reflects on his relationship with the dead and in doing so addresses some difficult issues and taboos with a light touch. But then time starts to play tricks and a new story is played out – helped by swift changes in the calendar to guide us.

Both actors provide engaging performances presenting a couple who, despite their differences, have a genuine bond. Theirs was no easy task in a space with a great deal of noise bleed from the rest of the venue. At no point did they lose focus and they held us throughout.

Michael’s description of Hannah’s death as a moment where nothing happens but everything is different is particularly poignant and vivid. I was probably not the only person in the audience to find myself remembering a personal loss. Michael has a nice self-deprecating gallows humour. He also has a greater emotional range – it was nice to see that awareness explored in a male role. The dialogue between Michael and Hannah is witty but begins to drag a little as they age, not quite capturing the depth of their relationship.

Overall, it is a thoroughly absorbing play with finely drawn characters and a thoughtful look at some of the taboo issues around death - with some nice unexpected twists!

(c) Kate Saffin 2016

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Author's review: 
4