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Death becomes her: A Brief List Of Everyone Who Died @finborough

For a natural process, death is not a topic that comes up naturally for people. We ask how people are doing but expect the response to be “I’m great”, not “I’m not dead yet”. And so for the main character in A Brief List of Everyone Who Died, Graciela has a death issue. Starting with when she was five and found out only after the matter that her parents had her beloved dog euthanised. So Graciela decides that nobody she loves will die from then on. And so this piece becomes a fruitless attempt at how she spends her life trying to avoid death while it is all around her. It’s currently having its world premiere  at the Finborough Theatre . As the play title suggests, it is a brief list of life moments where death and life intervene for the main character, from the passing of relatives, cancer, suicides, accidents and the loss of parents. Playwright Jacob Marx Rice plots the critical moments of the lives of these characters through their passing or the passing of those around them. Howeve

[title of show]: [Blank] @DonmarWarehouse

From 100 scenes that run over 500 pages comes [Blank], which is currently running at the Donmar Warehouse. It’s a do it yourself play by Alice Birch where the production can choose the number of scenes and the order of them. Thumbing through the play text, I first assumed it would be an epic night out at the theatre. Thankfully Director Maria Aberg has chosen thirty of them, and the end result is an evocative and emotional journey of women on the margins of society. Or at least that’s what it seemed to me. It becomes a do-it-yourself play for the audience too as you begin to piece together the various characters before and start making connections about what you’re seeing.

And as windows smash, crockery breaks or salty pasta gets eaten, what emerges are the struggles of a range of different women who find themselves in circumstances they cannot escape from. Women in prison, or a refuge, or selling themselves to get by. In the light of the #metoo era, which is hilariously put down as a “revolution on twitter” it’s a thought-provoking piece.

This could be a worthy topic for a night at the theatre, but there is a lot of warmth and humour in the piece, aided by a strong all-female ensemble that includes Shona Babayemi and Joanna Horton.

There are the two girls in foster care setting new ground rules and debating the merits of keeping all your possessions in carrier bags to the outreach worker rehearsing how to tell a mother her daughter died. Each scene serves to underscore the plight of women, particularly those in the criminal justice system, in a sensitive yet realistic way.

Things come to a head at a dinner party with a bunch of affluent liberal women. While talking about how their lives were changed, volunteering for 10 days at an orphanage in South America among plates of clafoutis and lines of coke, their privilege and virtue signalling is challenged with devastating effect.

A provocative view on whether it’s possible to escape poverty, violence and liberal platitudes. Directed by Maria Aberg, [Blank] is at the Donmar Warehouse until 30 November.


Photos by Helen Maybanks

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