What’s more mundane than death? What’s more absurd? In a slice of often brave, often very funny, and occasionally extremely poignant clowning, Amritha Dhaliwal and Gemma Soldati invite Fringe audiences to consider all of these aspects of that fate that none can escape in their show The Living Room.
The performers balance slapstick with the serious, creating moments of real poignancy
That’s right, we’re all going to die. I’m going to die. You’re going to die. That guy from the Go Compare advert is going to die. Cher will die. Even Nicholas Cage will die... Though hopefully not for many years. How will we be remembered? How will that death be marked? – A memory? A stroke of white chalk on the deep black of a slate board?
Thus, we find ourselves in the titular Living Room, a space where Death’s accounts diligently mark the passing of one soul after another. Phones ring as another death is reported. In this unlikely world, the clowning comedy by LA-based duo unfolds. Both Soldati and Dhaliwal throw themselves into their performances. Dhaliwal commands an air of authority in the shipping container-turned-venue which houses this show, while Soldati buzzes with a more nervous energy, hair slicked down by who-knows how much pomade.
They are both clearly accomplished performers, strong in the physical clowning elements, and easy in their interactions with the audience. The best segments of the show are ones that focussed on the physical clowning: a painfully drawn out kiss, a dance that ends in tragedy. There’s always plenty going on, with segments coming in a tumble of non-sequiturs. It doesn’t always hit the mark, but the performers never overreach, and their performance never feels rushed.
It’s not all laughs though, far from it. Death isn’t trivialised in the show and the performers balance slapstick with the serious, creating moments of real poignancy. The tonal shifts could be jarring in less capable hands but Dhaliwal and Soldati handle them with grace. It marks the show out as smarter than your average clowning, costing laughs but delivering a more thought-provoking work of art.
By the end of The Living Room you’re as likely to have shed a tear in remembrance as in laughter, and it’ll definitely have you thinking. The mix of absurdity and reflection may certainly not be to everyone’s taste, but it was definitely the most intriguing show I’ve seen in a shipping container, and I’ve seen quite a few.