When We Died – VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Mike Wells

Writer: Alexandra Donnachie

Director: Andy Routledge

Rachel is an embalmer, and a good one at that. For her death is a transition, a process, and it’s one she treats with the reverence it deserves as she prepares each body for their final goodbye. She’s been doing it long enough now there’s little that surprises her. Today she’s supposed to be at home but agrees at short notice to cover a shift for a colleague who’s unwell. She quickly gets to work as she always does, but this time finds herself atypically unprepared for the sight that lay before her. There, on the slab, lies the lifeless corpse of the man who raped her.

From there the storyline flits back and forth between the past and present, slowly piecing together the incident, which has tormented her ever since. The incident, which means she no longer feels safe in her own home and actively seeks reasons to leave it; the incident, which led her to covering her co-worker’s shift leading her to him once more.

The script itself is fabulous. It deftly navigates difficult topics with both sensitivity and exquisite detail – no mean feat given the subjects involved. The show is both written and performed by Alexandra Donnachie, and her performance is as excellent as her writing.

Andy Routledge directs the piece, and, with Donnachie, has managed to find some wonderful moments throughout a show, which never lacks energy.

The piece is also peppered with some really nice moments of movement, directed by Christina Fulcher. They offer us an insight into the emotional turmoil and inner tension that Rachel experiences, and is a great storytelling tool.

It must also be said that the level of technical detail when describing the embalming process is riveting. At times it’ll leave you squirming in your seat, but it really plays on our morbid curiosity with what happens when we die – it also offers the show a real credibility, which is essential for a storyline such as this.

This is a fabulously written show delivered with a sincere and touching performance.

Runs until 15 March 2020

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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