The Suicide, National Theatre, review: ‘Gloomy title but rollicking ride’

A scene from The Suicide. Picture: Johan Persson

A scene from The Suicide. Picture: Johan Persson - Credit: Archant

In the age of social media, viral videos and the seemingly all-pervasive climate of shock and sensation, it is probably worth asking ourselves if we are becoming desensitised to, well, pretty much everything.

With levity, laughter and biting satire, Suhayla El-Bushra’s The Suicide locks its knowing gaze on that last great taboo of western culture: death. Contrary to the gloomy title though, it offers an effusive, rollicking ride.

Focusing on the plight of down and out Sam (Javone Prince); a man in his thirties, unemployed and living in the council house of the mother of his girlfriend Maya (Rebecca Scroggs), we trace his rapid unravelling. And yet, whilst he might not be quite the happy camper, he is also not depressed to the point of suicide. However, that changes one day when a few gentle nudges from a few certain members of his local community offer a solution to his troubling predicament.

The Suicide is about the commodification of death, the venal wiles of politics and the vultures in the midst sensing opportunity.

If this sounds a little heavy-going, fear not: there is a wave of unrelenting, rib-tickling humour to wash the message down. It is a brisk and fleet-footed play, yet equipped with a serious underbelly prompting debate.

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Rather strangely, the lead, Javone Prince, is a little lost in the melee, but live percussion accentuates conflict and the cast as a whole imbue the production with appropriate gusto.

Paul Kaye’s turn as the budding filmmaker is particularly memorable.

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Some pot shots are a little excessive.

The reference to Thatcher is both a hit and a miss. Despite procuring laughs, it feels like an indulgence on the part of the director (considering the lengthy running time) and adds little to the narrative.

Quibbles aside, this is ultimately a vibrant, funny and incisive work deserving of a broad audience.

The Suicide is at the National Theatre.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

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