Writers: Adrian Edmondson and Steve Marmion
Director: Steve Marmion
Reviewer: Niall Harman
Bringing a book about the perils of middle age to the stage is not an obvious choice for neither a theatre or a performer. Yet with Bits of Me Are Falling Apart (based on William Leith’s 2009 book), television favourite Ade Edmondson has done exactly that, and in doing so has created a dull show that is desperately lacking in humour, pathos and drama.
Edmondson has noted that selecting his “favourite, favourite, favourite” parts of the original text left him with a three-hour show to perform. He has mercifully enlisted Soho Theatre artistic director Steve Marmion to create a 70-minute piece, yet despite the short running time, this is a show that really does drag.
It opens with Edmondson as an unnamed man lying on the floor, lamenting his lot in life. He explains that he is sleeping on an old mattress in his office following the breakdown of the relationship with the mother of his child. He panics knowing that he must see his ex-partner again when he visits his son later in the day and wonders how he has ended up here, alone and in his early 50s.
It seems at times as if Edmondson has a list of middle-age tropes that he is determined to check off one by one. There are musings on divorce and step-families, a plethora of aches and pains and an inevitable rant about the cost of housing. Most of these things are mentioned only fleetingly, adding little to the evening’s proceedings – the intention of including them seems to be to pad out an already slim script. Edmondson is best known for his comic talents, and while some lines are quite funny, this is not a play full of belly laughs, instead it is one overwhelmed by a quiet sense of sadness.
Lily Arnold’s set comes in the form of a sparse white floor, with many children’s toys hanging from the ceiling using colourful lighted ropes. These provide various sight gags; Edmondson points to a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar while mentioning a book about “the death of love” and rants about houses from inside a plastic Wendy house. These gags cause the occasional titter at first, but the novelty soon wears thin, although they do provide a welcome visual distraction.
The fault of the piece does not lie with Edmondson as a performer. He has more than enough stage presence to sustain a one-man show but is let down by his and Marmion’s script. Bits of Me Are Falling Apart provides little insight into middle age and instead makes for a flat and forgettable show – one that thankfully only lasts just over an hour.
Runs until 3 December 2016 | Image: Contributed