Noel has multiple sclerosis. As he sees it his next few months will be an inevitable, excruciating descent into paralysis and eventually death. His body has already started to go. And so Noel records his final goodbye on a tape recorder for his friend Rich, a final memento for the living before he takes his own life.
In the sea of one-person shows that is the Edinburgh Fringe, Wycherly’s stellar performance and Colfer’s emotional odyssey of a script make this one stand out.
Written by Eoin Colfer (of Artemis Fowl fame), the script has an elegant simplicity that only a true master of the English language could capture. Its framing with the tape recorder works perfectly; Noel recounts discrete stories from his life with ease and wit, and they effortlessly coalesce into a larger narrative of love, joy and regret. It’s deeply human and touchingly relatable – Noel’s regrets stem from a place all-to-familiar, easy to understand yet tragic to view in retrospect. Colfer’s script is also hilarious at times, but the humour comes mostly from the excellent characterisation rather than punchlines which works well here. It’s satisfying – never jarring – to laugh along with Noel as he reminisces.
The quality of the script is perfectly matched by Don Wycherly’s magnetic performance. Wycherly acts with an almost shocking authenticity, attacking the subtlety of the language and depth of his character with energy but never overdoing it. His pacing is magnificent – a one man show lives or dies on how well the actor can move his story along at the right tempo, and Whycherly shows his experience in this, always adjusting to the subtle narrative shifts with grace. His physicality, too, is remarkable. Wycherly captures Noel’s degenerating body – a paralyzed arm and leg, and some visible trouble speaking – with effortless naturalism. Despite the somewhat static staging of the show, Wycherly’s physical performance keeps it engaging throughout.
My Real Life is an exceptional play. In the sea of one-person shows that is the Edinburgh Fringe, Wycherly’s stellar performance and Colfer’s emotional odyssey of a script make this one stand out. It’s moving, it’s inviting, it’s real. Go see it.