DEAD AND BREATHING at The Albany
This coruscating two-hander at the Albany offered a near-perfect theatrical experience – a terrific play, great direction, a fine set and tour-de-force performances by its stars. Drama-lovers really couldn’t ask for more. Writer Chisa Hutchinson has created an extraordinary piece that swings restlessly from slapstick to heartache, from rancour to redemption and from offensiveness to sophistication without ever spilling over into cliché or bad taste. The plot is also spangled with genuinely surprising twists, including a brilliantly subversive ending, which I won’t spoil in case you get a chance to see the play later on its UK tour. And it is magnificently played by Lizan Mitchell as megarich widow Carolyn who is dying from cancer and by Kim Tatum as potty-mouthed, streetwise, God-fearing nurse Veronika who rails against her patient’s determination to commit the mortal sin of suicide. The plot hinges on Veronika’s moral dilemma when Mitchell offers her her entire fortune – 87 million dollars – to help her die. Yet what could easily have become a dirge or a farce gets the full human treatment here with episodes of hilarity (I loved the pumpkin joke), rage, affection and misery which were given moving depth by the skill of Mitchell and the equally impressive Tatum. The experience was made even more delicious thanks to Sarah Booth’s fabulous set and the breathless pace whipped up by director Rebecca Atkinson-Lord. An early contender for my play of the year – and hard to imagine it being surpassed in the next ten months.