One of the joys of the current online@TheSpaceUk season is how easy it is to just dip in and grab a random show to fill a little void in your busy schedule, maybe between cooking dinner and deciding what to actually do with the rest of the evening. That was how I found myself watching Alive, because at just 15 minutes long, you really can fit this in, however busy your (non-existent) social life might be right now.
It’s testament to Jenny Stafford’s polished writing that in such a short space of time we quickly understand so much about Ashley (Caitlin Hilzer) and Jacob’s (Ben Hilzer) relationship; a loving couple but both seemingly obsessed with anything but the right now. He finds solace in antiques, she finds it in the gossip columns of celeb-dominated magazines. All this can be garnered in the first few moments, as Jacob returns home from his latest antiques shopping trip with an urn. An urn that, he quickly explains, he wants them to use for the ashes of whichever of them goes first. Ashley is a little less keen on the idea. And from this wonderful premise the rest of the tale unwinds, as grievances, worries and regrets are aired aloud, leading both to question themselves, their relationship, the past and, more importantly, the future. Or even the right now.
What’s lovely about Alive is that it looks and feels as if it could be happening on the stage of an actual theatre. The simple set of two large chairs and a mantelpiece dominates everything, framed to fill the screen, with little room elsewhere. It really does have the feel of staging found at many an Edinburgh Fringe venue, quick to set up and dismantle and not requiring too much backstage storage. What isn’t quite so great is the tinny sound. Whilst not a major distraction, this was noticeable; as if the budget had gone on those chairs and so they then settled for the cheapest microphone available. A small gripe, but one that was obvious.
The short running time does of course mean things are somewhat compressed, and we fly through the emotions at breakneck speed. But that’s not a bad thing: it shows how much can be portrayed in such a brief space of time when the writing is crisp and sharp.
Alive really does live up to its name. By the end you feel a sense of renewed life, of being, yes, alive, of wanting to jump up and down on your sofa in celebration of what we have in the right now.
Written by: Jenny Stafford
Directed by: Penny Cole
Dramaturgy and video editing by: Sarah Johnson
Produced by: Flying Solo! Presents
Alive is playing as part of Online@TheSpaceUK Season 2, and will be availabe free until 31 January. This show, plus many others, can be found on the website below.