Theatre: Shelf-Life

Whether or not the abandoned BBC London Studios building is an apt place to explore the ‘meaninglessness of life’ depends upon your perspective, but where once DJs broadcast to the capital, now tentative visitors wearing hard hats take part in something much more extreme – immersive promenade theatre.

From being ‘born’ through a large vagina to ‘dying’ on a windswept rooftop, young company HalfCut have created a series of experience-based vignettes that rattle through life’s familiar stepping stones; school, university, jobs, marriage, holidays, old age and death. In association with Theatre Delicatessen – the studio’s resident company – they playfully contrast childhood dreams with adult reality, moving from the madcap and surreal to something more profound.

The cast’s performances have the rough-and-ready exuberance that comes from improvising much of what happens on the spot, but lack the polish of something more rehearsed. The characters we meet are almost as hastily sketched as the faces we’re told to draw on balloons – and it’s these balloons that steal the show in an uplifting final scene. Written records of our achievements end up a hotchpotch of personality traits, jobs and actions. This might resemble real life, but real life, sadly, rarely resembles drama – although a wedding reception drinks-do has all the awkward pizzazz of the genuine thing.

Marylebone Gardens, London. Until 10 November

Written for The Stage

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