Theatre review: Life by the Throat

Life By The Throat - Underbelly
Life By The Throat - Underbelly
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Mancunian playwright Eve Steele (Lub You, Should Love Hurt This Much) writes and performs this powerful monologue inspired by “men she’s known, loved and wanted to punch in the face” (a rare example of a Fringe brochure blurb capturing the grit and wit of a show’s personality).

Star rating: ****

Venue: Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61)

We meet protagonist Jamie at the moment of his birth, and follow him through a life of high rises, abuse, petty crime, major crime, drink, drugs, sex and other activities that might generally be written off by the ruling classes as “anti-social behaviour”.

All of which might sound like a one-note, grim-up-north hour were it not for Steele’s sense of humanity and her ability to spotlight moments of fun, happiness and even extreme joy in Jamie’s life. At no point is he patronised as a victim of his circumstances – he experiences hardships and limited opportunities, for sure, but his choices throughout are his own, which make him fully responsible not only for his failures but his successes too.

Steele and her regular collaborator, director Ed Jones, have opted for a bare bones presentation: just Steele pacing, stalking and dancing inside a stage marked out by black-and-yellow warning tape (this, along with some expressive lighting aside, is the only thing close to a theatrical flourish – it seems just as likely to be the first tape they picked up at the shops as any sort of statement).

If there’s one minor niggle in the staging, it’s a certain choppiness in the sound cues – Jamie’s adventures amid the techno beats of Europe and the house vibes of the Hacienda are abrupt stop-and-start affairs, where a more nuanced sound mix might sustain the clubbing mood a bit better. Still, that’s small beans in a show that casts aside governmental clichés of “disadvantaged upbringing” for something honest and deeply affecting.

Until 28 August. Today 2pm.

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