Departure Date is a comedy about death that sadly lacks life. Set, script and performance all contribute to a limp forty five minutes, written by Paul Vitty and presented by Venture Wolf.
A disappointingly empty comedy
A dull and unassuming bachelor, David, lives in ‘contentment for self-loathing’ and has accepted life as a stream of mediocrity. One morning when rummaging through his mail, he finds a letter from the hospital, detailing that due to a clerical error’ they regret to inform him he has only one day to live. In an odd final act, he decides to dedicate his last hours to seducing Helen, a woman he admires from the office and, on the suggestion of his friend Liam, he hires a prostitute to ‘practice on.’
David does not seem particularly panicked by the news that his life is coming to an end. He may as well have opened a gas bill in this unremarkable opening scene. Though his persona is designed to be flat, this has the unfortunate effect of draining all energy from the stage. I didn’t find myself feeling much concern for David, or any of the other characters in fact, all of which lack depth. For instance, after David’s lacklustre introduction, his sister Sarah enters. Her signature quality is that she talks a lot but has little to say, thus failing to add interest. In addition, Liam extends not much beyond a typical lad’s lad and his only standout trait is a bizarre dislike of accurate watches.
Vitty’s comedy seems to struggle for humour. Sexual jokes from Jodie, the prostitute, were so embarrassing that I couldn’t even laugh in shock and was left wincing. The script builds to a frantic climax when David must hide three women in his apartment without allowing each to know the other is there, but this desperate situation lacked the urgency it needed for comic effect.
Most of the play’s action was bizarrely confined to a small sofa in the corner of the stage. It would of course be unfair to extend this criticism to the actress who bravely performed on crutches, but the rest of the cast seemed to inexplicably limit their use of the stage space in general. In the case of Helen, a costume choice of skyscraper high heels left the actress looking a little wobbly as she walked.
Ultimately, a play about a choicely boring individual needs other excitement to colour the performance. Departure Date fails to achieve this, leaving a disappointingly empty comedy