A Matter of Life and Death by Tom Morris and Emma Rice, as well as being a loving ode to the classic film by Powell and Pressburger, is also an original work in its own right. Charming, funny and unexpectedly poignant, this is family fun of the best kind. The young KCS Theatre have breathed new life into an old story.
The physical ability of the troupe is quite stunning. They throw and catch objects from this way and that with dizzying regularity. Their timing is so polished I can almost see my face in it and the choreography is impeccable. However, some of the set pieces were a tad dull at times. The opening that involved a kind of lullaby about the planets was impressive because of its visual aspect but quite sentimental. This though was the exception rather than the rule for a play that usually had enough tact and humour to avoid being maudlin.
The young cast are consistently good, but special mention must be must be given to Jonas Moore’s June and Gregory Coates’s Conjurer. The former’s tenderness and sweet singing voice is perfectly convincing, the kind of person you could fall in love with instantly as Christian Hine’s Peter does. The latter however is a comic Machiavelli with a flamboyant French accent and hilarious mannerisms and a welcome presence amidst all the 1940s BBC radio-esque voices.
People who have come wanting to see the film will be surprised, but I think pleasantly so. There are some major deviations, for instance the story now seems to be set in the imagination of a young teddy bear-hugging boy (Nick Hockaday). This means that while the narrative encompasses the entire length and breadth of the universe it still all occurs inside this boy’s bedroom, a conceit that works very well emphasising as it does the story’s marriage of whimsy and wonder. The other major deviation is the ending which I could not possibly divulge but simply say that it is of such a sensitively intelligent nature that Powell and Pressburger would possibly have envied not using it themselves.
A light-hearted and thoroughly welcome piece of theatre.