There is never a moment that does not feel out of place
Beginning with Keogh’s birth, Steele’s performance begins in darkness, standing completely still as they describe those first moments of life. While the scene is poignant, it also immediately establishes the dark sense of humour of the story. From there the play follows Keogh’s strange childhood, his moments of pride and darker moments both of personal criminality and adult encounters. The play is told entirely through Steele’s monologue, who commands the stage with such ferocity and skill that one is sure to be swept away. Keogh is a habitual thief, a nasty character in many ways, but both through Steele’s sympathetic portrayal, and through learning about his early life experiences, it’s remarkable how empathetic he becomes. Either through his own personal charisma as a character or through Steele’s performance, Keogh is likeable (for the most part), both as an understandable character and one that makes the audience laugh.
The stage is bare, with only lights used every so often to reflect a changing setting, and music is sometimes used for party scenes. Otherwise, there is nothing on the stage but Steele herself. Steele not only transforms into Keogh, she also transforms the stage around her. The script invokes the locations and scenarios to the point that you could almost see the people and situations playing out in front of you. Everything from a car crash to a court hearing to a scene of domestic violence is described both with enough imagery to recreate the scene in the imagination, and not too much description that it drags the scene down. The script is tightly written and naturalistic, bringing the characters to life in a way that great monologue performances should. Steele makes use of the stage perfectly, dancing and walking around with fluidity. There is never a moment that does not feel out of place. Never a movement that feels overdone or silly.
Life By The Throat manages both to tell the bittersweet story of an intriguing and sometimes darkly humorous character, and provide a truly entertaining hour of dramatic pathos. A character that actually does seize “life by the throat”, Keogh is a truly great theatrical figure. Steele imbues in him a life that is a must-see for anyone looking for a darker and more dramatic experience this Fringe.