Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Breathing Corpses @ Victoria Baths, 27.11.13

Laura Wade’s Breathing Corpses, the latest play produced by Fresh Loaf Productions, follows several stories all connected by one commonality: death. For some, death puts life into perspective and offers a new start. For others, it does quite the opposite.

Staged in the dimly lit basement of the labyrinthine Victoria Baths, Breathing Corpses has a non-linear structure that encourages you to ask questions. A man is found dead in a hotel room – what drove him to suicide? A body is uncovered in a lockup – who killed them, and why? Slowly the pieces are put into place but, as with life itself, you’re left to decide exactly what it all means.

One of the most important things to do when staging a play is to create an atmosphere, which Victoria Baths has in spades: the echoing rooms and cold corridors are an ideal setting for a play dealing in death. The watery soundtrack was a perfect aural accompaniment, and added to the magic reality of Wade’s text.

Normally this would be the time to single out specific actors for acclaim (or admonishment), but what struck me was the ensemble’s consistency. No one stood out, but no one was meant to stand out – this was well observed realism. Wade is a master of understated dialogue, and the cast did it justice. The same goes for the directing of Joe Mellow, which was effective, unobtrusive, and coaxed good performances from all involved.

Not your usual fringe affair, it felt like a lot of time and effort (and possibly money) had gone into this production. While this meant it lacked the seat-of-your-pants charm that makes fringe so worthwhile, it did allow for a professional text (Wade has had much critical acclaim over the last decade) to receive the professional treatment it deserved. A great play, well performed in a brilliant location...it will be interesting to see what Fresh Loaf do next.

Words: Andrew Anderson

Photos: Emma Rider

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