Theatre review: The Life and Times of Lionel

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In this inventively staged Fringe debut, we meet Lionel (Joshua Ling), a Walter Mitty-esque character who’s dissatisfied with his work and prone to flights of fancy: his morning routine is a fully automated conveyor belt experience (complete with clinical, statistics-heavy narration), while one bout of whimsical wishing results in the ground successfully opening up and swallowing him whole.

Star rating: ***

Venue: Greenside @ Nicolson Square (Venue 209)

The affable Ling is supported by a lively ensemble of stagehands-cum-extras-cum-Greek chorus, among whom the gangly, dynamic Tom Claxton is a comedic scene-stealer. Sadly, the excellent performances and direction are let down by an overfamiliar storyline – like Mitty and the combined casts of both editions of The Office before him, Lionel is a workplace sad sack who pines after a co-worker from afar while never plucking up the courage to find out that she, for no discernible reason, actually likes him too (a traditional wish fulfilment exercise from legions of indie rom-com screenwriters).

The tone is also inconsistent – a bright, energetic first half gives way to a much bleaker second, with some last act drama that jars with the preceding narrative. The Life and Times of Lionel is warm and charmingly presented, but falls short of being amazing.

Until 13 August.

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