“There is no me in me without the way I love you”.
A light, convivial family atmosphere transitions into a dark comedy as Graciela’s (Vivia Font) parents figure out how to tell her that their dog has died. Denial and questioning turns into blame and Graciela develops some sort of fear of her loved ones dying. Members of the cast take it in turns delineating the time passing as Gracie ages. Jacob Marx Rice’s script is mischievously witty and exuberant one moment before revealing undercurrents of disquiet and grief. Throughout the play, people in Gracie’s life die, and she struggles to deal with each one, until it eventually becomes her turn. What I loved about this play was its earnestness and the acute portrayal of grappling with something beyond your control.
Font was emotionally precise and deliberate as Gracie, enlivening her sarcastic dialogue and sharp humour. Her character is consistent as she transitions into older versions of herself and the same goes for the other characters – their ages are clear, without being overperformed and their personalities develop accordingly. Kathryn Akin plays Gracie’s Mum, Anne. She is maternal, warm and wise with a sense of knowing. Gracie’s wife, Cass (Amelia Campbell) provides a steadiness and strength that opposes Gracie’s panic. Alejandro De Mesa is Gracie’s, stubborn, challenging but deeply caring father, conveying concern and thought in contained moments of silence and expressive eyebrows. Siphiwo Mahlentle plays Jordan, Gracie’s childhood best friend. The two gallivant together and share a fascination with the Land Before Time. Mahlentle is adorable and hilarious as both Jordan and Melaku (he multiroles as Gracie’s son as well). He plays the older Jordan in a carefully strained way, as depression mutes his joy though he tries to hide it. The multi-roling mirrored the way you see snippets of your loved ones in other people and places. The cast interact beautifully and convey strong bonds between the characters.
There are a few musical moments after certain deaths where their voices blend harmoniously, it felt ceremonial and reflected the bonds. With each person who died, a light on the set would turn on, the simplicity and the symbolism were moving and contributed to the emotional landscape of Gracie’s life. Alice McNicholas’ set suited the space and the bricked patterned floor hinted at the home settings.
Alex Howarth’s direction was strong, using the limited space efficiently and to an expansive effect and crafting the dynamics and push and pulls in the scenes really well.
It goes without saying that this play is relevant to everyone, as we will all die one day. I think it encourages the celebration of life through embracing death, and that panicking about death and uncertainty is also natural and understandable but that that fear can be transmuted. Stunning performances and a strong rapport between the cast as well as genuinely funny and searingly sad moments, make this a play well-worth watching.
Showing until 10th June 2023, https://finboroughtheatre.co.uk/production/a-brief-list-of-everyone-who-died/
Reviewer: Riana Howarth
Reviewed: 18th May 2023
North West End UK Rating: