When You Pass Over My Tomb

You know you’re in for a wild night at the Arcola Theatre when one of the content warnings is ‘Mentions of necrophilia’. And rest assured, this Sergio Blanco and Daniel Goldman collaboration is just that. When You Pass Over My Tomb is an ambitious and inventive exploration of death and what the body offers when it no longer lives and breathes.

An ambitious and inventive exploration of death and what the body offers when it no longer lives and breathes

The play opens with the three actors introducing themselves by their actual name: Al Nedjari, Charlie MacGechan and Danny Scheinmann. They address us directly, with no formal start to the play; they break the fourth wall not only with us but also with the lighting and sound technician, making us feel like this is an experience that we’re all actively participating in; until our actors tell us how they themselves died and where they are currently buried. We hear tales of illness and shark attacks, and as the audience we’re in the dark again wondering, “Are you playing yourself or a version of yourself? How much can I believe?” I spent a lot of this play in the dark, feeling my way through it, not sure how I was expected to feel and at times not able to follow what was going on. Having said that, it was an exciting headspace to be in, because regardless of my uncertainty, I was intrigued throughout.

The actors slip in and out of their characters during the show. We mainly follow Nedjari playing the ghost of Sergio, who walks us through his experience of securing an assisted suicide with Dr Goodwin in order to give his body to a necrophiliac named Khaled, whom he deeply desires (played by Scheinmann and MacGechan, respectively). The actors use the in-the-round staging to their advantage, indulging in their close proximity to the audience by sitting in amongst us, handing out props and asking questions. For a play that is text heavy, the active staging keeps it alive and the mixed media use of a video camera projected onto the TV above the grass-carpeted stage offers us plenty to hold our attention throughout the quick paced, dense chunks of writing.

There are mentions of classic literature, known cases of necrophilia, and also a few tongue in cheek references to the playwright's previous work. The play gives us the literal image of someone giving their body to another after death, for it to be intimately enjoyed for as long as it is able to be. It made me wonder if it may be asking us about what we leave behind when we’re gone, what is the mark we leave on the world. Do we leave behind a family who mourns us? Or the art we created that will live on forever? Or in this play’s more controversial case, skin and bone that has been prepared with care and offered with love.

Reviews by Carrie Goode

Arcola Theatre

When You Pass Over My Tomb

★★★★
The Hope Theatre

The Gentleman of Shalott

★★★★

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Desire, friendship and eroticism intertwine in this dazzling new play by the acclaimed Latin American author Sergio Blanco who asks, “How far would you go for love? And will the world allow it?” 

Sergio would prefer death to come sooner rather than later. With the help of Dr. Goodwin and a Swiss clinic, he seizes the opportunity to hasten his end. But what of his post-mortem body? Burial or cremation would seem a waste, given his fascination with necrophiliacs. In a London psychiatric hospital he finds Khaled, whose passion for having sex with corpses makes him a worthy recipient of his body. Now he must meet with Dr Goodwin to organise his assisted suicide and with Khaled to arrange the delivery of his body. Alternating between these conversations and combining the realms of fantasy and reality, When You Pass Over My Tomb incorporates a breadth of historical, literary, religious, TV and cinematic allusions to death.  

Describing his meta-theatrical creation as a work of autofiction, Franco-Uruguayan writer Sergio Blanco and adaptor/director Daniel Goldman return to the Arcola Theatre after the success of their critically acclaimed OFFIE award-winning productions of Thebes Land and The Rage of Narcissus, to tell a mesmerising story of love and lust beyond the grave. “This play is my homage to London, which is the city where I would like to be buried, near the Thames, the Globe and Turner's paintings.” Sergio Blanco

Content warnings: assisted suicide, mentions of necrophilia, mental health and blasphemous language.

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