A genial show that tackles the tricky subject of death head-on.
The old cliché goes that death is life’s only certainty. But does that still stand today? In their new piece, Unlimited Theatre explore the possibility that death may not be the finale we all think it is. Which is a comforting thought until you begin to imagine a world that’s filled to the brim with people who are stubbornly refusing to pop off.
Despite dealing with the most morbid of subjects, ‘Am I Dead Yet’ is actually quite genial. The two-hander has Chris Thorpe and Jon Spooner standing together on a stage scattered with microphones, amps, guitars and a piano. They get dressed into all-in-one suits that make them look a little like racing drivers, they perform songs, tell us facts (they’ve been creating the show with the help of a resuscitation expert) and get a trained professional to teach us CPR. Everything within the piece is a way of demonstrating how death isn’t what it once was. Where once it was an ending, these days it can be a mid-way point. Modern science is getting better and better at bringing back to life those who have died.
Thorpe’s skill at provoking a vivid image in the mind of an audience is firmly at work here. He and Spooner tell two separate tales involving dead people. In the first, two coppers in the late '70s search for the body parts of a man who has jumped in the way of a passing train. They’re still looking for his head. He’s definitely dead. Then there’s the young girl who slips through the ice on the top of a frozen lake and disappears under the water. But – for reasons I won’t give away here – her death isn’t as easily defined as the earlier one. Each of the stories are poetic, hyper-real and exceptionally intense.
There are some really intriguing ideas swishing around ‘Am I Dead Yet?’ and without doubt you’ll come away from it wanting to continue the conversation. But often the piece feels too whimsical. And one or two things are a little underdeveloped (why, for instance, are Thorpe and Spooner dressed only in their pants in the beginning?). The collective sing-song at the end is fun, but not enough to provide an impact. The piece drifts away peacefully into the night. But then again, maybe that’s a nice way to go.