Pros: The design is interesting, innovative and at times beautiful.
Cons: The confused storyline makes for a rather dull evening.
The Life and Loves of a Nobody is the story of Rachel. She wanted to be famous but didn’t try very hard and never got there. If that sounds boring, that’s because it is. The play begins with the entrance of two business-like ‘game show hosts’ who apologise for the media frenzy and chaos outside in anticipation of tonight’s great event, which is clearly a controversial one. They then proceed to tell Rachel’s completely unremarkable life story: she grew up in a tower block, then she flipped burgers, then she got married, then she got divorced, then she realised she didn’t ever try to live out her dream of just being famous for the sake of it. Perhaps this would have worked if the story was told in a passionate, engaging way; instead the delivery is detached and occasionally patronising, as though the show was for very young children.
My experience wasn’t helped by the fact that I couldn’t see much from the second row, since the action occurs on ground level and the seats are all on the same level. I couldn’t hear the performers very well either, and the general lack of proper stage presence made for a rather uninspiring performance.
Much of the set was made of paper and string, which again was reminiscent of a children’s show, but it was, at times, very effective. The scene where paper butterflies hang down all around the characters is particularly beautiful. However, it takes so long for the performers to assemble the set that the patience of the audience is really tested. The pay-off isn’t quite good enough to justify the several minutes of preparation. At other times the overambitious design is just plain awkward. In one scene, the performers cut holes in large sheets of paper that they have stretched across the stage so they can talk to us through them. They clearly have trouble with this and cannot work at holding our attention whilst simultaneously managing the knife. This makes for slightly uncomfortable viewing and no real value is gained from the paper window effect. Clearly a lot of thought went into the design and I applaud the ideas behind it; it’s just a shame it doesn’t quite work.
The play ends with a rather bizarre scene, where we are returned to the ‘game show’ and the hosts discuss how they may or may not kill Rachel live on TV, if we vote for it. The idea is that either she will die and be ‘immortalised’ or she will live and be returned to her dreary existence. While this poses an interesting question about the ethics of fame, the two parts of the show are not cemented together well enough and it all ends up a bit too confusing for the question to be poignant. I see what theatre company Third Angel were aiming for, and while it’s a fascinating topic to explore through theatre, it seems as though they have had so much fun devising the piece that they have forgotten the audience is there at all. In one scene, burger buns are thrown into the audience. One audience member threw a bun back, as though reminding Third Angel that there were people sat in the audience who wanted to be entertained.
Devised by: Rachael Walton and Alex Kelly
Designer: Andrew Stephenson
Produced by: DepArts
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.