I know everyone is busy these days, but believe me when I saw I was busy when Sofie, invited me along as her plus one to review two-man-show Soften the Grey earlier this week. Normally I’d have said no, not enough time to look at this link, sorry can’t go. I glanced at the buffering screen on my phone as I waited for a synopsis to shuffle into view and before I had time to click away I’d decided, ah stuff it, I’ll go.
So off we went.
We went for dinner at La Cafe Divina, where, true to form, I was a whole hour late (thanks TFL!) and had to trust Sofie with placing my order despite having practically stood her up. Maybe it shows that I’m a lesser person and would have sabotaged her order had I been the one getting pitying looks from waiters for an hour, ordered her a bowl of pasta with no sauce/cheese/meat and shrugged when she arrived- but alas, Sofie is a much better person than I am and gracefully ordered me a lovely and filling seafood linguini (thanks girl x).
Scoffing that down in enough time to guarantee indigestion and the new possibility I could enter speed eating contests in the future, we made it to the Hope and Anchor pub with just enough time to grab a (very flat) cider and pull up our seats before the show started.
Soften the Grey is a teasing look into the afterlife, written, directed and performed by Jake Hassam and Nigel Munson. We’re onlookers in a Citizen’s Advice Bureaux beyond the grave, after a poor unfortunate soul dies in a diving incident.
Sounds a little macabre, doesn’t it? Well surprisingly, and refreshingly, it’s not. The dialogue toys with deep dark questions and with softer, lighter moments to avoid becoming an angsty piece- the last thing anyone needs after being stuck on the Central line for fortyfive minutes, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The Receptionist fronts the Bureaux, echoing every public sector customer serviceman in his deliberate pencil pushing. There’s something child-with-ant-under-a-magnifying-glass about the way he puts our dear dead diver friend through his paces when deciding on the outcome of his life- which afterlife is for you? What have you done right? What have you done wrong? What was it all about? Who let the dogs out? The questions I’m know we all ask ourselves on lonely nights.
We flash back through the diver’s life, witness to important moments that will decide his eternity, which pave the way for some wonderful intimate scenes that have every audience member holing their breath- Damien’s kiss being a notable highlight of the entire hour. Led by the Receptionist, we are welcome to make our own judgements about the ol’ diver’s life value, who is purposefully relatable in a hundred ways- not least that he spends most of the show in a Zebra onesie.
I’d sensed a little ghosts-of-Christmas-past-future-and-present in the Receptionist, who lauded his knowledge and position of the diver- so I put it to Jake and Nigel when we met with them after the performance. They were delighted. “It’s nice to hear that there are more layers to the show than we expected!“. The definite Dickensian undertone of the Receptionist reaches out in other ways- the punishment scenes are dramatically Victorian- but there’s always a steady undercurrent of chirpy humour; “I can’t die, I’m only 25″ -”The early bird catches the worm!”.
Overall, I’d say the name Soften the Grey doesn’t do this play justice. It’s deliciously thrown in, but gives no clue as to the lightness of the show, despite the big questions. This was an absolute joy to watch, and I absolutely demand that you get your butts down to Hope and Anchor to catch it before it leaves us for wherever plays go when they pull the final curtain.
THEATRE CHALLENGE TOT UP:
- Price: £0 as a plus one for an official reviewer
- Remaining: £35
- Shows so far: Four
- Theatre challenge reviews so far.