This Is Living

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A relationship is mixed up, spat out (and dunked in water) in this intriguing debut play

While ‘This Is Living’ is about love, loss, grief and recovery, in formal terms it’s just as much about ambiguity – ambiguity as a means of telling a story full of such Big Human Themes. Throughout this ambitious debut, writer-director Liam Borrett constantly tests the limits of what can be left unsaid, what doesn’t have to be told linearly, what can go without being definitely real or unreal.

The play opens with Alice (Tamla Kari) lying face-down in a pool of water, then waking up spluttering in the arms of husband Mike (Michael Socha). He’s confused: didn’t she die several hours before? Then, from this strange, dreamish limboland, we’re sent back to the pair's first meeting on the tube: two twentysomething northerners who flirt, fall in love, marry, endure a miscarriage, fall out, and so on – in no particular order.

Maybe it’s because these events are so universal – and unremarkable – that Borrett is so keen to deconstruct their traditional arc. It’s delivered with clever economy in Sarah Beaton’s stripped-down set; changes in lighting are all that’s used to signify the jumps in time and place. But as the play enters its second act, the chopping and changing starts to cross that fine line between being richly ambiguous and frustratingly obtuse.

Luckily, the structural confusion in offset by two raw, soulful and utterly captivating turns from Kari and Socha. As actors they’re certainly put through the wringer: howling with pain one second, laughing contentedly the next, their clothes soaked with water. Together, they take us though the spectrum of emotion that comes from a relationship assaulted by tragedy. We might lose track of what’s going on, but we never lose interest. (And a quick heads-up: those seated in the front row may get wet).

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