DramaNorth WestPhysical TheatreReview

You Must Be The One To Bury Me – HOME, Manchester

Writer/Director: Joeseph Lynch

Reviewer: Charlie Senate

Before the show lights dim, the small stage of the studio theatre is already doubly-filled: a man and a woman, sitting at opposite corners, each reading silently from a dog-eared novel. Their very separateness dominates, set the mood. But, when a third player, a girl in a red dress, joins them, that dynamic is muddled—muddled, in this case, being the operative word.

The story itself is straightforward. Richard, aptly played by Joseph Lynch, pines retrospectively in the aftermath of a recent break-up. The culprit of his ruined heart?—not the silent reader, but the girl in red: Sophie. Played by Wiebke Acton, Sophie is a vibrant eccentric, an obvious foil for Richard’s understated, sometimes uptight demeanor. Through the prism of Richard’s memory, we watch the full arc of their relationship, from its first, nervous baby-steps to its eventual, inevitable end. The silent reader from the start is actually Clare, Richard’s on-again, off-again psychiatrist, played by Tilda O’Grady, who rounds out the play with an excellent speech about the nature of memory that recasts much of the preceding action in a new light.

But, in some ways, it’s the play’s production, and not its story, that defines it, blending elements of physical theatre with light and sound effects and voiceover to produce something, at times, quite stirring—and that lends some welcome vitality to what is, ultimately, a pedestrian plotline.

Otherwise, the play is uneven. The romance, the impetus of the whole shebang, is fairly unpersuasive, and sometimes seems unworthy of Richard’s anguish. The erosion of the relationship, a jumble of tired vignettes, is so forgone a conclusion as to remove whatever suspense suspension-of-disbelief might have afforded. Empathy with Richard is slow to come, and Sophie, while charming, never fully materialises as a character. The result: for much of the play, the audience is left with no one, in particular, to root for. As for the potentially transformative ideas about the bias of memory, these aren’t truly treated until O’Grady’s speech near the play’s end.

But, this is balanced by some truly tender moments and some wonderful insight into the intimacy of love. Couples will recognise a few familiar scenarios and notice a few parallels, sometimes uncomfortable, between the characters and themselves. A particularly touching scene unfolds in the most modern of settings: curled up on the couch watching an episode of Game of Thrones. And, despite its ominous title, You Must Be The One To Bury Me is actually quite funny: rich with a well-timed levity that always seems to rescue a scene right before it meanders into indulgence. The play is at its best in these light-hearted, honest moments.

Overall, this may be a flawed play, but it is also an ambitious, well-acted, well-produced one that is worthy of a viewing.

Runs until Thursday, 21 January 2016.

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Flawed but ambitious

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