On the basis solely of the first half, this could be THE show of the Adelaide Fringe. All the elements are there: a skilful more than capable cast of diverse performers and musicians, excellent production values, a well thought out and relevant soundtrack but unfortunately, for all the sum of parts, this show is not all of what it could have been.
The first half is brilliant with a very interesting overarching narrative flow of life, very well encompassed by the title LIFE – the show. It begins with a bumbling everyman character bored by the repetition and mundanity of life before series of events draw him into the world of domesticity that may eventually entrap us all. With accompaniment by a live band amongst a mixture of found music to reinforce the momentum of the narrative we are witness to his meeting a partner, marriage and the ensuing sexual relations. This is comically portrayed in a scene of suitably clumsy animalistic “mating” including the appearance of a gigantic condom that becomes representative of the insemination/fertilisation process inside a fallopian tube (sorry to get so clinically biological in a Fringe review). This sequence played out inside plastic tubing is beautiful and moving, quite different from the regular high above the stage performances that audiences might be more familiar with. What follows is a most effective use of Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky during and after childbirth and a scene of housecleaning domesticity that includes breastfeeding via vacuum cleaner.
Maybe the way the first half ended with the bumbling everyman character first entangled in red rope and eventually in some form of rope-cocoon was representative of his death (which did leave some loose threads, so to speak) but it would have been preferable to have extended the narrative into the second half and used some of the individual showcase performances from the second half to bulk out the storyline of his life after getting married and starting a family.
There is nothing actually wrong with the second half per se, as it does maintain a certain technical proficiency, but it is ultimately let down by lacking the continuation of the narrative thread that allowed the first part to transcend the many other circus and theatrics style shows on offer. The first half is a masterful set up for an audience eagerly anticipating the second half but we are let down by the narrative thread being dropped and the second half in retrospect seemed to be more of an exercise in the performers displaying their physical and acrobatic versatility and comes across as extras tacked on to bulk up the show to a near two hour running time. Only the bumbling Jimmy Fallon-esque everyman character returns while everyone else, including the wife character, has moved on to other seemingly disconnected roles.
There was certainly potential to further explore family and even death more overtly but opportunity was not taken leading to a disappointing albeit technically satisfying second half which would have made for a fine one hour show on it’s own. When placed back to back with the exceptional and far more successful first half, which demonstrates the potential of the medium, it becomes a poorer sibling and this is ultimately to the detriment of the show as a whole, taking this show from being five stars to four and a half.
Fringe Review By Jason Leigh
For tickets, show dates and times for Life – The Show head to Fringe-Tix