So here’s purgatory: four members of the recently deceased find themselves engulfed in sheets billowing from all sides. The Carol Vorderman from Hell gives them a 100-minute countdown, in which they have to choose a memory they wish to relive on loop for all eternity. Navel-gazing taken to another level.
The godforsaken gang reflects all walks of life: there’s the thick-skinned career bitch, the star-crossed lovers with misplaced priorities and tribesman Ketu. However, it seems the ultimate purpose of 100 is to show off the writers’ ability to cast ‘the meaning of life’ in a new twisted light, and unfortunately character development is inevitably left incomplete. As the aim of the game isn’t really to engage emotionally with characters, who are more formulaic philosophical deductions than anything intelligible or relatable, a whopping great burden is loaded on the actors, who have to convey the humanity of their characters without detracting from the mind-games. Prithu Banerjee – whose fragmented character is inexplicably incapable of choosing a sufficient memory – does the best job of providing an emotional atmosphere to purgatory. Amelia Davy tugs at the heartstrings at times in her portrayal of dementia-ridden Sophie, losing herself in her cut and thrust career.
Ketu is an awkward character to have. You see, Ketu is a black African tribesman, and it seems by that virtue has to be the ignorant savage. Whilst others are choosing memories concerning their business acumen or love at first sight, Ketu gravitates to memories of himself persuading his tribe the Earth is not flat. Liberals won’t be enamoured by his frequent exhortation: “The World is round… like an Orange!” Playing this dubiously PC character, we have the Caucasian Sam Ereira; this initially brought some confusion, until he came out with a heavy Nigerian accent. The character and the interpretation here are intrinsically odd, and I’m not sure if this is all a too-clever-by-half mockery of stereotypes or is merely lazy. Ereira’s performance was strong; but given the whole bewildering racial dynamic, he might as well have gone the whole hog and tried blackfaced minstrel.
The set made little sense either. Bedsheets were cast over every prop, some randomly hanging from a washing line at the back like used Kleenex. Upturned buckets act as seats for the doleful lost souls, which is fine, except no one tries kicking these buckets/refers to an unfulfilled bucket list: the buckets are just buckets. A broom standing against the back wall was kicked over halfway through, but I think it was more accident than transfigured idiom. If the set is supposed to convey the surreality of the afterlife, fair cop; but considering the general disjointedness, I’m not that convinced. I’ll admit an intriguing feature, though, was pianist Jennifer Lai, who playing from the periphery beautifully, would participate in the characters’ recollections.
The countdown system gets arbitrarily more contrived as the play limps along, new rules applied by a supernatural force no one bothers to explain, restricting the memories the participants are allowed to choose. Characters have to choose the right memories, the appropriateness of the memories throwing up a multitude of deep earth-shattering conundrums over the audience. What is the good life? What is most dear to me? How do I know I love them? As the performance lasts only an hour, it’s likely this will all spark off tremendous conversation in Mission Burrito. It’ll subsequently wither off as you realise how trite and glib this all sounds outside of a PPE tute.
Fingers crossed I don’t have to remember any of this come purgatory.
100 is showing at the Burton Taylor Studio from Tuesday 19th September until Saturday 23rd. Tickets £6/5 and available here.
PHOTOS/ Screw the Looking Glass