Thursday, September 28

If You Were to Die Tomorrow – Paradise, St Augustine’s

If You Were to Die Tomorrow has been the most difficult show for me to review at the Edinburgh Fringe so far. Brought to the festival by Hive MCR, it uses a love story between Charlotte, Sasha Dowdy, and Hope, Frankie Weatherby, to explore existentialist questions about the universe and our place within it. Charlotte has a nihilistic approach to life, believing everything is predetermined and so there is no point actively trying to do anything. We’re not going to be able to change the course of our lives. In contrast, Hope seems to think that if there is no greater meaning to life, then we must find meaning in our everyday actions. To put it simply, the meaning of life is living.  This provides a good foundation for the play discuss these wider questions whilst simultaneously getting to know and understand Hope and Charlotte both as individuals, and their dynamic as a couple. I’m aware that all sounds complex, but I promise this show is a comedy, and an entertaining one.

The cast are all very strong. While Sam Bell and Oscar Henry’s comedic, multi-rolling duo may be the obvious scene stealers, all the performers commit well to their roles, which suitably grounds the play even when it gets incredibly meta (we’ll get to that later). Dowdy and Weatherby have believable chemistry and strong stage presence. I wanted to spend time with their characters and was certainly routing for their romance to be a success. Emily Ring is hilariously horrible as Fiona and Will Walford shines as the far more deadpan Dan, despite purposefully not being given much to do.

I highly respect the ambition of this play, but ultimately, I think it was just too much. Towards the end all the characters realise they’re in a show, which is being directed by Bell and Henry. Charlotte and Hope discuss what this means for their relationship, are they actually in love or were they forced to be, before everyone is made to start the play again from the beginning. I respect this as an attempt to comment on the existential questions of reality. Are we all essentially in a play, being forced by an all-powerful director to live a certain way, or do we have a choice in what we do? The issue is that the constant twists and turns result in the different threads end up getting a bit lost. I would be getting to grips with the show’s philosophical message, only to be thrown another curveball. Perhaps this is the point, to show life is chaos, but when discussing such mind-bending topics, it never hurts to hold the audience’s hand slightly more.

I also wonder whether there was a slight lack of faith in the philosophical discussions being able to hold the audience’s attention. The characters would often begin the conversation, only for it to be undermined with a joke. For instance, when Faith and Hope are discussing the meaning of life, there is a gunman reacting to everything they say, torn between acting and not. While this was very funny, it was so distracting I completely lost the conversation, which was a shame, because it started promisingly.

Overall, I’m very glad I watched this show. It’s ambitious, entertaining, and filled with talented performers. I just think its ambition was also it’s downfall. The issue with trying to do so many things in such a short show, is that none end up being done to the highest possible quality.

Reviewer: Ben Pearson

Reviewed: 14th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.