The Living Room
- Arusa Qureshi
- 21 August 2019
Hilarity and poignancy merge in a clowning show about death
Dressed in black and engulfed in gothic crinoline with multiple veils covering her face, Amrita Dhaliwal is cataloguing something on a small blackboard. With the audience seated, Gemma Soldati materialises from below the folds of Dhaliwal's skirt, and our introduction to The Living Room begins.
In their role as the Accountants of Death, the duo spend their time answering phones, of which there are many strewn around the room, making a note of the death in question on their board. They make a fine pairing, with Dhaliwal taking on the role of the domineering accountant and Soldati acting as her wide-eyed and simple apprentice. They mix absurdist techniques, clowning and slapstick to present a show that examines how we deal with and talk about death.
When Soldati accidentally kills their goldfish, and we're invited en masse to the funeral, complete with a miniature flushable toilet, there's a more serious point being made about the finality of death. Despite the continual hilarity, there are moments of unexpected poignancy scattered in between; so when the audience are invited to say out loud the name of a person they have lost, Dhaliwal adds to the tally on the blackboard. They each name a person themselves, adding weight to the action, as if we're all collectively grieving.
With elements of tragedy in amongst the comedy, The Living Room is a frenzied hour featuring maniacal dancing, audience involvement, two very likeable and engaging clowns, and lots and lots of water.
Assembly Rooms, until 24 Aug, 9.20pm, £10–£12 (£9–£11).