The Art of Falling Apart

The Art of Falling Apart follows the path of midlife-critical salesman Callum, gleefully poking fun at modern life and the absurdities of trite conversation, chance meetings, hollow motivational speeches, coffee shop pretensions and their culmination in the average man’s hilariously humdrum existence. It is the latest offering from the theatre outfit Big Wow, who have already garnered a series of rave reviews for their show’s run in Liverpool, wholly deserved.

The stripped-down performance style does testament to the ability of Tim Lynskey and Matt Rutter to own the stage.

But the show’s triumph is not just in its brilliantly crafted comedy or the accuracy of its observation. Nor in the baffling versatility of the two multi-roling performers, who shift between innumerable caricatures with joyful, joyful ease – each as distinctive and well-crafted as the last, even if only brought to life for a few moments.

It is rather in the seamless blend of the show’s laughter and its existential angst – whether in a desperately wordy tirade against our “bankrupt post-idea society infotainment universe,” a phone helpline that won’t issue a new cash-card without confirming Callum’s address and number of relationship failures, or a man naively waiting since “three Tuesdays ago” for a modern-day Godot who has scammed him out of his life savings. The central question of life’s meaning is best expressed by a drunken actor in the vein of Withnail and I, who mixes his favourite drinks with Shakespeare: “To be, or not to Bacardi Breezer”.

The stripped-down performance style, with just a single chair and the occasional lighting or sound effect, does testament to the ability of Tim Lynskey and Matt Rutter to own the stage with just their energetic stage presence. The disjointed effects in one vaguely hallucinogenic scene, however, could hardly have been put to better use.

The right note is not always hit, with a song on the inevitability of death not quite being sufficiently witty or well-sung to warrant its inclusion. Some more overt efforts to point to the profundity of the work also come close to undermining the philosophy so expertly mediated through its comedy. Overall though, for performers concerned with falling apart, Big Wow have created a work of remarkable cohesion.

Reviews by Henry St Leger

Pleasance Dome

Police Cops in Space

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Frankie Vah by Luke Wright

★★★★★
Summerhall

A Hundred Different Words for Love

★★★★★
Bush Theatre

Guards at the Taj

★★★★★
Camden People's Theatre

Beta Public V

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

‘There’s two kinds of people Callum. There’s you. And there’s everyone else’. Callum realises modern life is rubbish and walks out on his, but to who knows where? Stage Best Ensemble and Total Theatre nominees Big Wow (Insomnobabble) return with a new, ferociously-paced magical piece of theatre. Extremely funny, maybe even a little bit profound. Scripted and directed by Robert Farquhar (Gods Official, Bad Jazz, Kissing Sid James). Performed by Matt Rutter and Tim Lynskey. ‘The humour is loud, non-stop and impeccably timed … theatrical entertainment at its best’ (Total Theatre). Direct from Liverpool Unity.