Living A Little creates theatre zombies at the Vaults Festival
It is difficult to reinvent such an iconic genre as horror in a theatrical production and with almost a century of ankle-grabbing, jugular-munching gore, the zombie apocalypse trope is on the verge of becoming tired. We’ve all seen the wide-eyed, heavily perspiring heroes trapped in a closet as hundreds of rotten hands claw at the door. The steadily dwindling group of survivors that conveniently come from all walks of life is quite frankly boring. Living A Little, thankfully, steers us away from the hacking and slashing we have come to expect from apocalypse stories and transports us to a quiet living room where friendship, banter and revelry are valued above the adventure and risk of the outside world.
Nestled away in an apartment block, Paul and Rob live comfortably as the end of the world rages outside their front door. With hot water, electricity and stockpiles of food, they are completely removed from the horrors of the apocalypse. That is until katana-wielding Penelope crashes through their front door and brazenly reprimands them for their lavish lifestyle in the face of global adversity. Over the course of the following 24 hours, we see the trio bond together, all the while questioning what makes life worth living and exploring how life’s priorities change when faced with the end of days.
This theatre production of Living A Little really is a shining star among other ‘zom-coms’. Finlay Bain’s script is exquisite – balancing laugh out loud one liners with a pervading sombre tone. As the piece develops, it becomes increasingly difficult to stifle the bubbling giggles around the audience. The irreverent and childish sense of humour at first seems sloppy but very quickly shows itself rather as an accurate and astute observation of people’s inane conversations and arguments. The tone of the play swoops continually from tense stand-offs to care-free amusement and back again, dancing delicately over the minefield of feminist discussion before crashing joyfully into a game of ‘would you rather’. Bain steps into the role of Rob with wolverine ferocity; his swaggering gait and abrasive voice offset perfectly by the soft-spoken, rather mumsy, Paul played by Paul Thirkell. Thirkell’s appreciation for the nuance in the conversation is incredibly impressive and there are several points where only a slight movement or expression from him has the audience roaring. Jessica Manning’s Penelope provides the perfect glue, binding the three characters together with a deadpan expression and considered delivery. The realistic and conversational tone keeps our attention and makes for a powerful ending. The cavernous space of The Vaults theatre lends itself to the story beautifully. With a distinctly hollow and dungeon-like feel, we are allowed fully into Bains’ bleak world.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Living A Little is that the plot feels organic and moves seamlessly through the characters’ first interactions onto the friendship that develops thereafter. Refreshingly, this piece openly acknowledges, and ridicules, humanity’s nonsensical obsession with zombies – something that is awkwardly avoided in other zombie stories. A fantastic piece from a promising playwright – a night out not to be missed.
Reviewed by Alex Foott
LIVING A LITTLE plays at the Vault Festival theatre until 26 February 2017