“Death is very inconsiderate.” It certainly seems so here. As the title might suggest, university student Chris is dead and has left his three housemates, Sam, Hattie and Mac, to cope with the things he has left behind. Witty in places and with a piercingly poignant end, Vicki Baron’s play deals with the period after death, the painful, the frustrating, and the grief. It is a small, modest story, but heavy in meaning, asking the audience if there is ever a correct way to grieve.
The writing is incredibly neat and well-thought out and though it feels a little contrived at moments, these are rescued by the actors
The dialogue is punctuated by voicemails (heard by voiceover) left by Sam for Chris, though of course he will never hear them. Sam (Aislinn De Ath) suffers inwardly, and is private in her grief. The actor is thoroughly convincing in these voiceovers, for which the lights are dimmed, so the audience can do nothing but hear her struggle with the questions about her relationship with Chris that will now never be answered. It seems that the only person with whom she seems to want to share it with is the person whom she is grieving. At the other extreme is Mac, (Jon Cottrell), hugely realistic and reminding me mildly of David Tennant’s Broadchurch character by his roughness and moments of aggression. Cottrell portrayed his character with a startling amount of realism; the loss felt fresh and raw.
The writing is incredibly neat and well-thought out and though it feels a little contrived at moments, these are rescued by the actors, who are wonderfully naturalistic in their roles. Most notable in this area is Julia Yelland who plays Hattie, the younger, charming and flighty member of the group, a mediator between the other two. Yelland provides many of the humorous moments as she tries to continue with day-to-day activities, and though she clearly feels it no less than the others, in some ways copes best out of the three with her grief. Many of the scenes had poignant ends, yet often the lights dimmed as soon as the speaking was over. It perhaps would have been appropriate to hold it for just a second or two, to allow the audience to absorb the scene.
At first I was unimpressed by the title Chris is Dead, however now it seems only too fitting, suggesting the characters’ disbelief and desperation at the loss of their friend. Carrying such truthful performances and delicate scenes, Chris is Dead is a brief exploration into three characters, who miss and wish for the return of the fourth.