Tuesday, July 23

When You Pass Over My Tomb – Arcola Theatre

Finger-licking, or rather phalanx licking, good, When You Pass Over My Tomb by Sergio Blanco and adapted and directed by Daniel Goldman, is laden with content warnings (for assisted suicide, mentions of necrophilia, mental health, and blasphemous language) but where it might be expected to sink under the weight of its unwieldy themes, instead sails through increasingly murky waters with ease.

Photo: Alex Brenner

Neither linearly nor exclusively following the story of playwright Sergio Blanco himself as his fictionalized counterpart prepares to undergo assisted suicide and engages in flirtation with the convicted necrophiliac he plans to donate the majority of his body to, this three-hand play dips its toes into many different stories and traditions, including funerals, children’s games, swordplay, and lip sync.

Well directed and well met with the venue of the Arcola theatre, When You Pass Over My Tomb features Al Nedjari as his own ghost and Sergio, the playwright, Charlie MacGechan as his own ghost and Khaled, the necrophiliac, and Danny Scheinmann as his own ghost and Doctor Godwin, the suicide assistant.

Teeming with literary references and possessing a robust poetry of its own, this production is also well scored by a steady stream of Bach’s Goldberg Variations and particularly well-chosen music at both interval and curtain. Sound Design by Hugh Sheehan and artfully transparent Stage Management by Alex Jaouen pair well together and with Sergio’s constant meddling interventions in the performance’s soundscape as he both constructs and unfurls his narrative in real time.

Malena Arcucci’s set is both pleasingly self-contained revealing props in its secret and not so secret recesses and sprawlingly decadent including an incongruous but thematically appropriate and aesthetically pleasant cow. Also in the play world’s stratosphere is a terrific lighting installation alternately suggesting both the death clinic and the mental hospital the play splits its time between. Lighting and FX Designer Richard Williamson collaborates effectively with Arcucci in each of the play’s most spectacular moments. In a particularly dreamlike sequence fog unfurls from the astroturf dais of the plays central action and snakes its way through the auditorium nipping at theatregoers’ ankles while eyes remain rapt on Nedjari’s beautiful performance centre stage. Even its more mundane moments such as the ravenous devouring of an apple or the immature handling of a sword inflict a delight upon audiences that is both welcome and uncomfortable.

Both guilelessly playful and deathly serious, absurd but not irreverent, this play deftly manoeuvres its way through life and death, desire and disgust, but is ultimately, all in good fun.

Playing until 2nd March, https://www.arcolatheatre.com/

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 12th February 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.