Alistair McGowan stars as a man who wakes up from a coma (though you might wish he hadn't)
What if you could go back to being the person you used to be? What if you were suddenly confronted with the reality of all the compromises that ten years of life had inflicted upon you, all at once? There are intriguing questions at the heart of this new comedy from Peter Quilter – who scored a major crossover fringe hit a fear years back with ‘End of the Rainbow’ – but the execution is disappointingly wishy-washy.
Michael (Alistair McGowan) has been left in a coma after suffering a brain haemorrhage at work. His mother Carol (Maggie Ollerenshaw) and his long-term partner Paul (Daniel Weyman) have studious avoided each other for the last however-many-years, but are invariably thrown together in the hospital. It’s apparent they don’t get on, and with good reason: they’re both horrible. Carol has a penchant for launching into long, bitchy, Bond villain-like monologues. And Paul is basically a bit of a wanker. The status quo looks to be restored when Michael awakens – but uh-oh! He’s actually forgotten the last ten years of his life, including his entire relationship with Paul, and it’s apparent that he was a much more interesting person back then than the one his control-freak partner had moulded him into.
The somewhat fruity central conceit is actually handled rather gracefully, and Matt Aston’s production finds its sweet spot towards the start of the second half, when Paul concedes he had been a bad influence, and that perhaps there is something more honest in Michael forgetting the relationship than falsely remembering it as a happy one. But in so many other ways ‘4000 Days’ simply falls flat. Gags flop out limply; none of the characters are likeable, or especially plausible: considering they hate each other, Carol and Paul spend an awful lot of time having long expository chats, while I hate to say it but impressionist McGowan’s overly-mannered Michael feels completely unnatural, like a satirical impersonation of a non-existent person. Oh gawd, and there are montages (on a TV screen, depicting all the major events Michael has forgotten – oddly it reinforces the fact that not a huge amount has changed since 2005).
It’s a decent premise approached with some thoughtfulness, but ultimately it boils down to two nasty people fighting over an unlikeable one, and it’s hard to feel very invested.
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Went to the preview last night - fantastic play - thoroughly recommend. The script is excellent, has some wonderful lines and is quite moving at parts. All 3 actors pay their roles fantastically well, McGowan in particular has such stage presence - he was superb in an Audience with Jimmy Saville, and is just as great in this play.