This Is Living is a new play by Liam Borrett about love, loss and saying goodbye. It presents the relationship between the hilarious and immensely likeable Alice (Tamla Kari) and the quietly passionate Michael (Michael Socha).
The play opens with the minutes immediately after Alice’s death by drowning. Michael returns to the scene of the tragedy time after time to commune with – her ghost? Her memory? For Alice is clearly, loudly and impatiently not dead. At least, that’s how it seems to them. As the couple attempt to navigate life apart, their heart-wrenching exchanges lurch from the banal (what did you get from Tesco?) to the unbearable (how do I tell our daughter that her mum is dead?).
In a series of flashbacks, Borrett shows us the story of Alice and Michael’s relationship, from serendipitous first meeting to finding out she is pregnant with their child. The warmth, humour and affection of their relationship are infectious and provide a stark counterpoint to the dark despair of their present situation.
Sarah Beaton’s superb design provides a constant visual reminder of Alice’s death, with a completely waterlogged stage. Kari and Socha spend the play drenched, shivering and bathed in Jackie Shemesh’s eerie lighting; a fitting sight of despair.
There is good use of silence throughout the play, giving space to the unspoken things that Alice and Michael can’t seem to bear to say to each other. Comedy is also very well used, elevating the bleak material with genuine laugh-out-loud lines and charming moments of fun and tenderness between the couple.
This heartfelt study of how to cope with grief and loss is truly emotional – there was more than one audience member in tears by the final curtain.
Reviewed by Annabel Mellor
Annabel is a London-based freelance theatre critic and journalist with a passion for new writing and fringe theatre. Follow her on Twitter – you’ll make her day.
Photo: Alex Harvey-Brown