19-30 August, times vary.
This year’s production by ‘Inspector Sands’ theatre company had a lot to live up to, following last year’s sell out debut of ‘Hysteria’. Continuing the theme of 21st Century obsessions with self-fulfillment, ‘If That’s All There Is’, seems a little darker than most problem-comedies.
The play follows the lives of an about-to-be-wed couple who suffer increasingly from emotional strangulation as the day of commitment draws nearer. Tempers then escalate as a therapist and a teenage temptress enter the scene. The cast perform soliloquies with unflinching conviction, and the tense chemistry between them is almost tangible. And despite absurd coincidences, the play avoids deterioration to cliché moments, and maintains as its driving force, the interrogation of isolationism versus compatibility in our overly commercial, material world as its central.
Without a doubt, the richness of language and the virtuoso of its delivery succeed in engaging and entertaining the audience. However, the play has been misleadingly in describing itself as a hilarious, ‘rib-tickling’ comedy. ‘If That’s All There Is’ achieves one-line humour, but goes no further. For me, the dark and bleak tone overwhelms any chance of sustained, plausible comedy. This itself contributes effectively to the play’s introspective thrust, but also smothers the potential comic talent of many leads, especially Lucinka Eisier. Moreover, the intensity and depth with which contemporary issues are tackled needs only moments of interspersed, light relief; something far from the incessant, preoccupying attempts witnessed here, forcing the comedy to be more than a distraction. This resulted, I felt, in draining rather than uplifting the audience, leaving less room for the real issues at stake. Although let down by over-ambition, by a squeezing-in of too many emotions, it is still a terrifically powerful, original, and moving piece of theatre.