My second Doctor Faustus of 2016, this time the RSC's take and some comparisons with Jamie Lloyd's version
Review: John Osborne's A Subject of Scandal and Concern, Finborough Theatre

Review: The funny and moving This Is Living, Trafalgar Studios 2

Production Image - This is Living - Michael Socha and Tamla Kari (courtesy Alex Harvey-Brown) (2)
This is Living, Michael Socha and Tamla Kari. Photo by Alex Harvey-Brown

There was a particular moment during This is Living when that button was pressed, the one where you feel a wave of emotion bubble up and you have to blink rapidly. It was when recently widowed Mike (Michael Socha) talks to his dead mother about how she would get on with his wife Alice (Tamla Kari) when she joined her in the afterlife.

That said, given that Liam Borrett's play is about a young relationship shattered by death there are a lot more laughs than you might expect. Mike starts off trying to convince Alice that she is actually dead, something she is having difficulty coming to terms with.

From there the narrative switches back and forth in the blink of a lighting change (cool/warm) from the ghostly conversation to how they met, their subsequent relationship and the circumstances around her death. The watery stage - barely half an inch of water on black plastic sheeting - and Alice's bedraggled look give a hint.

Production Image - This is Living - Michael Socha (courtesy Alex Harvey-Brown) (4)
This is Living, Michael Socha. Photo: Alex Harvey-Brown

In life Alice is vivacious, funny, kind and potty-mouthed. Mike is quieter, gentle and decent but is the one to make the first move, albeit with amusing awkwardness. They are an ordinary young couple with ordinary squabbles, ordinary plans of marriage and kids and ordinary ups and downs. In the end the tragedy is one of those blink of the eye unfortunate accidents but that is part of what gives this piece its potency; one day they are living one life and then the next they are living quite a different one or rather Mike is.

As with cartoon characters running off a cliff, for a while the momentum keeps projecting them forward on the same trajectory. Alice and Mike cling onto the life of yesterday but it is in helping each other that they can be reconciled with their fate and move on.

Tamla Kari and Michael Socha brilliantly navigate the flash changes of tone between the before and after scenes and the soggy staging doesn't dampen their chemistry as a couple. Alice and Mike are a couple you'd want to spend time with and that's what makes their story all the more poignant.  This Is Living is at the Trafalgar Studios 2 until June 11 and is one hour and 50 minutes including an interval.

I'm giving it four stars.