Death Actually: A Necromantic Comedy

Death Actually sets out to bring 'lethal puns and dead funny songs' in a larger than life musical. What the audience gets instead is a hammy play with a contrived plot and songs which are few and far between. The puns can be lethal, but most of them are too weak to even warrant a groan.

This show needs to desperately shake its rigor mortis and inject some energy into the performance, because right now it's all a bit of an overwrought mess.

The biggest nail in the coffin for this piece is the complete lack of energy from the cast. I couldn't pick up a cast list but this was perhaps for the best, as nobody stands out in this lacklustre performance. The script has a few good jokes but they're masked behind so much rambling and unnecessary build up that by the time it reaches the punch line, the emphasis is lost. That's without factoring in a cast who deliver lines as if they gave up on the show a long time before it reached Edinburgh. The chemistry between Jack and Belinda is barely there, and her drunken acting involves kicking around the stage in a way that implies less intoxication and more Bambi trying to walk on ice.

The overall show is pretty embarrassing to watch, especially when the blood packs give a more colourful performance than the actors. The songs feel overlong, and could do with an occasional verse being cut for the sake of keeping it peppy. The same could be said for the script, which has so many different plots being added that it's hard to keep up with anyone's motivation. The introduction of Hell as a place for hipsters is clever, but fails to make sense when Satan decides he wants to be nice, but also wants suffering, but also wants to kill the demons who cause suffering. I'd explain it better if I understood what was going on half the time during this show.

The show does have one moment of redemption, in which the vampire countess ruthlessly delivers "that" speech from Love Actually with a Death Actually twist. It's a neat little bit of parody, although it doesn't really deliver more than one joke in the form of replacing 'love' with 'death'. It's followed up by a similarly gentle song parody, and then a further ten minutes of redundant material. Why didn't they end it on the parody note? It was bleak, but it would've beaten the overlong ending the writers went for which tied up loose ends in a way which suggested bad pantomime instead of dark comedy. This show needs to desperately shake its rigor mortis and inject some energy into the performance, because right now it's all a bit of an overwrought mess.

Reviews by Louise Jones

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The Blurb

Meet Jack: a mortician’s assistant fed up with life, and indeed death. Meet Belinda: she was mourning, but now she’s dead. Jack's thanking his lucky stars that the mysterious Countess, with oddly sharp teeth and a neck fixation, has offered necromantic assistance to bring Belinda back. But Belinda's found herself in the arms of some devilish competition, and who's to say she isn't happier down there? Turns out Hell isn’t empty, just full of hipsters, but the devils are up here inviting you to join in the fun with lethal puns and dead funny songs!

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