Bits of Me are Falling Apart at Soho Theatre
The bar at the Soho Theatre was a hubbub of anticipation, the press eager to see how William Leith’s bestseller would translate onto the stage. As seats filled and the house lights went dark and then bright, the audience were greeted by The Comic Strip Presents supremo Adrian Edmondson. It quickly became evident that director Steve Marmion and his one-man troupe are onto something special: a tragicomedy of universal resonance that deals with themes of age and change as underpinned by protagonist William’s mid-life crisis.
To say that the set design is eye catching would be an understatement, as spectators are greeted by a vista of floating children’s toys. There is a Beano annual, a child’s playhouse and a glow-in-the-dark skeleton among many other brightly coloured trinkets, and credit must go to Lily Arnold for producing this wonderful spectacle.
The suspended skeleton is at the front of the stage, its legs curled into a cross-legged lotus position: a symbol connoting both death and the yogi lifestyle. As such, the spectre’s stance is complementary to William’s mid-life crisis: his pilates and bi-weekly posture instruction, the herbal teas and porridge. This visual serves to remind the audience (as if they were given any doubt) that no amount of organic food or elixir-of-life oats can redress a middle-aged man’s debauched youth.
Although this is a one-person show, the director has wisely chosen to transform the props into Edmondson’s supporting cast. They are prompts providing new subjects, which the actor then rants about with vitriol. This interactivity functions well as a stylistic choice because it helps to maintain the play’s energy and fluidity.
These “vitreous floaters” form a perverted mobile above the cradle of the spartan white stage floor. Floating fragments hang on hooks and the idiom of being on tenterhooks drifts away from the performing area and into the minds of those watching. The protagonist is waiting in a perpetual state of agitation. He is waiting to discover if his partner will ever take him back and whether his mole will turn cancerous before the life insurance clears. Edmundson portrays this character through an understated mastery of his craft, depicting him as a disgruntled recipient of life’s unpredictability. The joys and disappointments of age, its grinding continuation from the cradle to the grave.
Photo: Jane Hobson
Bits of Me are Falling Apart is at Soho Theatre from 2nd November until 3rd December 2016, for further information or to book visit here.