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Camden Fringe: Chris is Dead, Etcetera Theatre

by Vicki Baron
Presented by Empty Photo Theatre
Pros: The theme of death is sensitively dealt with and dark comedy is peppered throughout the performance.

Cons: I was left wanting more of a conclusion from the characters’ clashing relationships.

Our Verdict: An enjoyable and succinct show dealing with desolate themes with a delicate hand.

Courtesy of Empty Frame Theatre

Chris is Dead is a brave and poignant piece by Empty Photo Theatre. It explores the death of university student ‘Chris’ and the effect this event has had on his housemates. Brave due to the representation of the shadow of death darkened upon the lives of those so young. Poignant because of the way the characters seem to conflict whilst also pull together to support each other in a very familial way. We are given an insight into their coping mechanisms and their interactions, leaving the audience wondering whether Chris’ death made their bonds stronger or completely broke their relationships.

Each of the scenes shows us the characters dealing with their different stages of grief. Aislinn De Ath as Chris’ girlfriend Sam is shown to bottle her feeling whilst encouraging her friends to talk about theirs. Jon Cottrell as Chris’ childhood friend Mac is seen on a destructive path, abusing alcohol and setting his car on fire. Julia Yelland as another of Chris’ friend and housemates, Hattie, seems sad, yet tries to lift her housemates’ spirits with her bubbly personality whilst handling her own romantic dramas.

The show is peppered with humour throughout, mostly funny, but sometimes awkward hunour that just about raises some laboured laughs. Cottrell certainly excelled as Mac, letting his rage and pain shine through, although I wasn’t entirely sure his drinking was the result of Chris’ death or whether he had simply always enjoyed a good tipple.

Vicki Baron’s script was hugely engaging. There was a point in the play where they flashed back into time and it wasn’t exactly clear that this had happened, but apart from that, the performances flowed seamlessly. The show was punctuated by wonderful recordings of Sam contacting the voicemail of the deceased Chris, showing the audience the way she has been trying to open up about how she felt. The show was fitted succinctly into a short 50 minutes and successfully conveyed all the emotions it had intended to. The ending however left you wanting for more. But maybe this was its intention. I was desperate to know how the lives of the characters had unfolded, whether their pain had lessened and whether their bonds had remained unbroken.

I would have liked the performance to have gone on longer, perhaps explored the characters’ performances on a more in-depth scale. I would have especially love to see more from Yelland’s fantastically hyperactive Hattie. The ominous matter of death was dealt with sensitively in Baron’s concise script. This demonstrated huge potential from this newly emerging theatre company.

Seen the show yourself? Agree or disagree? Submit your own review with our Camden Fringe Big Audience Project!

Chris is dead runs until Sunday 11th August at Etcetera Theatre.
Box Office: 020 7482 4857 or book online at https://shop.ticketscript.com/channel/web2/start-order/rid/FBWYQF4D/language/en

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