Breathing Corpses is an award winning 2005 play by the British playwright Laura Wade, and the current production presented by One Little Room as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. The play begins with death and ends in death: a circle of death that no one can escape from, and it makes for a very interesting premise.
The show revolves around seven characters, who are all linked by a series of deaths and murders. How they are linked and who dies is cleverly explored in Wade's play and once the penny drops as to what is actually going on, you begin to see the work as an extremely intelligent and sophisticated offering by Wade.
Despite references to local places, the events in Breathing Corpses could easily have taken place in any contemporary environment or location, so while the effort the cast puts into their English accents is admirable, they are unfortunately not the strongest or most convincing that I've heard. For a deeper level of intimacy and connectivity with the material, I feel more time and effort could have been spent on building the keystones of their characters.
Nonetheless, there are some good performances in the show including Jordan Brough as Ray who adds some light comedy to the often serious and dark nature of the show and Jaq Avery as Amy the maid, who seems to have a run of bad luck with dead bodies. In contrast though, the scene between Kate and Ben (Alice Daly and Stephen Frost) seems disconnected, and the energy between the two actors doesn't quite match. If anything, I felt the roles required more anger from Daly and for Frost to tone the emotion and shouting down a little and explore other ways to show his character's rage.
For the most part, the direction by Brenda Addie was thoughtful but I admit there seemed to be a lot of aimless pacing throughout. There needs to be a more overt reason to have these people walking up and down the narrow stage as they speak, beyond just giving them something physical to do.
The set design by Valentina Serebrennikov, while simple, is quite effective with a row of sharp kitchen knives stabbed into pieces of wood create the rectangular performance space and the various uses of a metallic benchtop trolley was well thought out.
The set design by Valentina Serebrennikova, while simple, is quite effective, with a row of sharp kitchen knives stabbed into pieces of wood creating the rectangular performance space the characters are trapped within
and the various uses of a metallic bench top trolley which are
well-executed. The site-specific production’s venue is also appropriate
and atmospheric, confined within a cold, near empty warehouse (blankets are provided).
Breathing Corpses is an entertaining piece of
theatre that examines our relationships to death and how quickly the
end can come for anyone. It’s a great venture for this relatively new
theatre company and I look forward with deadly earnest to what they come up with next.
Venue: Candyland, 224 Normanby Ave, Thornbury
Season: until 1 October | Mon - Sat 7.30pm
Length: 80 minutes
Tickets: $35 Full | $30 Conc | $20 Groups 5+
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival
*Original review appeared on TheatrePress on 20 September 2016.