The Suicide

Posted on: 09 May 2016 by Laurence Green

Nadia Fall's modern reworking of The Suicide lacks focus and is swamped by the relentlessly unsubtle humour, writes Laurence Green.

The Suicide

A satirical comedy by Nikolai Erdman that was banned by Stalin in 1920s Russia for being anti-Communist loses its sting in this crude, modern day makeover by Suhayla El-Bushra, namely the Suicide (Lyttleton Theatre at the National), directed by Nadia Fall.

Things are getting tough for Sam. No job, benefits stopped and stuck in a tiny flat with his girlfriend Maya and her mum. The pressure is building. It feels like there might be only way out - to kill himself.

But every ending is a beginning and there are plenty of people to capitalise on Sam's momentous choice - from corrupt local politicians looking to make him the cause of the day to a dreadlocked trustafarian 'documentary maker' who wants to make him a hero in the style of the Tunisian street vendor whose self-immolation prompted the Tunisian Arab Spring and from social media-savvy kids trying to raise the number of views on their online videos to artists looking for their next big project that would surely attract press attention. Everyone wants a piece of Sam's demise. It scarcely matters what Sam actually wants. Faced with the promise of immortality what's his life worth?

This provocative play is at once over plotted and underdeveloped and although full of inventive ideas, never finds its rhythm with the result that the production loses focus. Admittedly, there are some decent laughs - as when the parasitic filmmaker gives a bizarre explanation of why he's got Margaret Thatcher tattooed on his chest - but the satirical targets are swamped by the relentlessly unsubtle humour.

Director Nadia Fall dresses the plot with hip hop, a noir-ish jazz drum beat and eye-catching graffiti style visuals which partially help to compensate for the caricatured characters and add a necessary touch of urban realism.

Adrian Richards, replacing an indisposed Javone Prince at the performance I attended, invests the protagonist with the right sort of slouchy self-pitying mediocrity and there's good support from Rebecca Scroggs as Ashley McGuire.

But, while never dull, the streetwise spin of YouTube generation represents a golden opportunity missed!

The Suicide

Runs at the Lyttleton Theatre at the National until Saturday 25 June 2016

Box office:  020 7452 3000

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