The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Brief History Of Everyone Who Died
Finborough Theatre online Summer 2021
nothing particularly special about Jacob Marx Rice's new play, but an
inventive and sensitive online production brings out all that there
is, making for a pleasant and sometimes moving 75 minutes of drama.
direction of Alex Howarth, this is one of the most
successful examples I've seen of the newly-born art form of Zoom
theatre, with the actors in separate windows (and probably in their
While you never
really get the illusion of them
being in the same room together – it's more like a string of online
conversations – Howarth's actors relate to each other and create
the sense of actual interaction in effective and affecting ways.
backbone of the play is the life of Gracie, from age 5 to 83, seen in
a string of short conversations with family and friends. The
recurring theme, as the title suggests, is death.
Gracie simply refuses to process the news that her dog is gone
forever, thirteen-year-old Gracie shows how grown-up she is by
bravely looking into her grandfather's coffin. At 18 she is so
wrapped up in the excitement of student life that another dog's death
hardly registers, but at 23 she is shaken by the first death of
someone her age.
At 30 her best
friend kills himself, at 37 she has
to help her son deal with the death of his pet, and by her sixties
and seventies her conversations are reduced to a growing catalogue of
departed contemporaries. The play ends – no spoiler alert needed
here – with her own resigned (and heavily drugged) last days in a
Along the way
we encounter her parents, friends, partner,
child and grandchild, with several actors in the cast smoothly
doubling roles as one generation is replaced by another.
does it all have to say? Not a lot, beyond the observation that death
is a part of life and we react to it differently at different ages.
But it says it well.
Much of the
credit must go to Vivia Font, who
not only makes both the precocious child and the exhausted
octogenarian – and everyone in between – believable but also
keeps Gracie sympathetic even when the play occasionally slips into
an it's-all-about-me focus that makes her reaction to, for example, a
friend's suicide more significant than his pain.
The rest of the
characters are largely conceived of as feeds and foils to Gracie and
given little opportunity to develop, but the supporting cast serve
the play generously, with particular contributions from Raphael
Bushay as both the suicidal friend and the well-balanced son, and
Gemma Barnett as the never-wavering partner.
And again much of the credit must go to director Howarth for guiding the cast to instant characterisations and a sense of a shared reality uniting the separate Zoom windows.
Receive alerts when we post new reviews