Sitting alongside a coffin in a stranger's living room is a slightly disconcerting experience but Pauline Goldsmith's
one-woman show Bright Colours Only delights in the absurd. Described as a play "for people who are dying to
live", Bright Colours Only takes the audience on an interactive journey through death. Set in Belfast, Goldsmith
inhabits a number of guises; from widow, to undertaker, to the recently deceased herself; as she meditates on our reactions
to the dead and dying.
From the moment the audience enters the theatre, they become minor players in the drama of an Irish wake. Goldsmith
the widow invites everyone into her living room for tea, sandwiches and whiskey. Yet just as we become
accustomed to the intimate family setting, she moves into the role of fastidious Scottish undertaker. Similarly,
the coffin changes from the final resting place of the departed to a mere demonstration tool; used to devastatingly comic
effect; as the undertaker extols the virtues of embalming.
Goldsmith's strength is in her attention to detail; the tea served in bone china cups and the awkward sense of camaraderie
perfectly evoke a typical wake. Bright Colours Only is a very personal play yet it also investigates public images
of death. Goldsmith juxtaposes her experience of her father's death with the murder of mourners at the funeral of three
IRA members killed in Gibraltar. As the voiceover between character changes talks of her childhood reminiscences of death,
Mandy McIntosh's slightly crude computer-animated visuals play on the stage backdrop. The difference between words and
images adds a poignancy to her stories.
Bright Colours Only may be a one-woman show but at times the props take centre stage. As the audience follows
the funeral cortege outside the theatre, the sight of the hearse adds to the sense of ritual which almost
overrides the play's comic heart.
Yet Bright Colours Only is above all a black comedy. Few other playwrights could get away with talking about the
murder of a local shopkeeper whilst mentioning in the same breath that he was known for stocking out-of-date Creme Eggs;
yet Goldsmith manages to carry off moments like this with aplomb.
Many plays attempt to encourage interaction yet few manage to make it seem like a natural part of the theatre-going
experience. Bright Colours Only manages to fully engage the audience in a manner I have rarely seen.
- Claire Simpson (reviewed at Belfast's NTL Studio, Waterfront Hall )