The Nine O'Clock Slot

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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So-called paupers’ funerals are on the rise in Britain, with bodies being stacked up in unmarked graves at early morning ceremonies in which vicars read the last rites to an audience of none. This piece from theatre company Ice & Fire follows the last days of four such corpses-to-be, telling their stories through a blend of spoken word, blues-inflected music and some fine performances.

The show’s central message never gets in the way, but that’s partly because it’s not entirely clear what the message is. That waving someone into the afterlife with a wooden stick for a headstone is sad? Agreed. That funeral directors are taking the piss with their prices? Maybe. That the government should cough up so even penniless stiffs can enjoy a 21-gun salute? Erm…

Confused sentiments aside, ‘The Nine O’Clock Slot’ is an engaging piece of theatre, packed full of clever scenarios and pithy dialogue. The cast make good use of a sharp script, none more so than Gary Cargill as doomed Scouse boozebag Connor, whose nightmarish rendition of Peggy Lee’s ‘Is That All There Is?’, complete with blue-sequined tux and blood-caked beard is both the show’s darkest and funniest moment.

Shifts of time and place are well-orchestrated and well-paced, with light, sound and video projections smartly deployed to smooth the transitions. That said, a few scenes carry excess fat, contributing to an over-long two-hour runtime – a long stint to be sat on a hard wooden seat in a gloomy Shoreditch basement without a central narrative to cling to. Perhaps it’ll tighten up as the run progresses, but even with its saggy bits, this is still a cleverly executed, poignant production.

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