Five long months has passed since Binge Fringe’s first foray into reviewing Edinburgh Fringe shows and I had come to the sad conclusion that it would be another seven before I had the privilege to do it again. But wait, what’s this? A local playwright? With his playwriting debut? An hour long one act play? In a local venue? This week? *dramatic music intensifies* YES. Time to emerge from my cave, have a shit and a shave and get some reviews flowing.
Greeted by a stage adorned with coloured lights, crushed beer cans, various debris and a minimalist set consisting of two chairs, a table and an amplifier; I couldn’t help but take my seat in The Nutshell and think ‘Oh yes- this is very Fringe-y’.
Enter a man (Rish Shah). A twenty-three-year-old Oxford University graduate. Smart attire, adorning a party hat and slumped in an arm chair. Like a passed out drunk at a party: peaceful and content. The audience waits for a while before Teddy Morris enters as a currently unnamed character. Offering Rish a drink, the man takes a seat and begins trying to explain the reality of the situation. It is here where I must pay my first compliment to the sophistication of Teddy’s writing. The whole play, but particularly this first section crosses between mellow and insightful dialogue with contrasting comedic moments scattered throughout. It is after all a comedy, but there is no denying the hard-hitting nature of certain moments, but I digress. Rish begins to question where he is and why he’s there. Has he been kidnapped? Has he been drugged? If the audience hasn’t deduced from the title, it is only when the nameless man proffers the question “Have you ever wanted to not be alive?” that the situation becomes clear.
It is simply impossible for me to overstate how much I enjoyed this show. You’re Dead, Mate does a wonderful job at keeping the audience on their toes, and indeed, on the edge of their seats. At no point did the narrative drag or bog the audience down with unnecessary filler dialogue nor did any moment remain static for more than a few moments at a time. I must also note my admiration for Teddy’s willingness to play with the tone, although being overall what I have dubbed as thoughtful-comedy, there are various (and frankly abrupt) moments where the tone is flipped on its head. One moment we’re witnessing Rish’s character break down over the realisation he’s dead and the next we’re watching the two men have a sing along to Take That (Rule the World by the way, excellent choice boys), all before being subjected to a physical fight between the two which ends with Rish’s shirt being soaked with coffee, which he adorns for the rest of the performance. If nothing else the smash cuts between action and genuine sentiment shows the duos blatant acting capability. Both Rish and Teddy show diverse ranges within seconds of each other: rage, anger, sorrow, sympathy, joy, the lot. Their on-stage chemistry and ability to bounce off each other in the fast-paced moments is a testament to their talent.
Now no show is perfect, and like any other You’re Dead, Mate suffers slightly from minor issues. The most obvious to me is that this show is not always kind to those not in the front row. As the stage was on the same level as the seated audience, certain moments were lost and witnessed only by those at the front or by those who could strategically glimpse through the gaps between people’s heads (much to the dismay of the woman sat next to me). Therefore, some of the touching moments where one or both characters are on the floor are lost to those of us who weren’t quite quick enough to dash to the front row upon arrival.
Ultimately, the pair bring wonderful life (ironically) to the stage, and I’m frankly astounded that they have achieved such quality so early in the show’s lifespan. Powerful performances, a gripping narrative, all while being a simple concept, lead this show to being one that left me wanting more, and excited to see that if this is Teddy’s first foray into the world of writing, what on earth have we got ourselves in for. It is my understanding that the pair want to take the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as well as other arts events; I can say with a degree of certainty that You’re Dead, Mate would be more than at home in this environment. Should you see this show advertised in the future, do yourselves a favour and watch these two men do what they do best. I have the strangest feeling this is just the tip of the ice berg.
You’re Dead Mate was performed at The Nutshell, Winchester on 26th-27th January 2019.
Actor. Occasional reviewer.