Nick Reed’s new play Lifecoach explores a now familiar idea – that a therapist/client relationship is a mutually beneficial arrangement which the shrink uses to his own ends as much as the client’s.
The shrink of this show is Colin, played with brusque charm by Phill Jupitus. Colin is divorced and using lifecoaching as a way of both proving his worth to his ex-wife and her fishmonger lover, and as a fast-track to retirement through helping a series of corporate clients get “one last shove up the greasy pole”.
But lowly office PA Wendy (Amy Darcy) is different. A genuine case for therapy, Colin suddenly finds a new lease of life by helping someone who actually needs it. Wendy has issues with her mother, her boyfriend, her job and pretty much anything else you care to mention, and through a series of role-plays and diagrams, Colin sets out to change her.
The play is well-suited to the intimate space of Trafalgar Studios 2. Jupitus is a likeable, if not always confident, protagonist, and Darcy is perfectly cast as the luckless Wendy. They are well supported by Katarina Olsson as Wendy’s ruthless boss Fiona, and Tim Plester as her boyfriend Alex, who fared well after a rather nervy start.
Although the play is funny and often quite moving (Wendy’s monologue to her dead mother a particular highlight), it lacks a certain amount of believability, particularly in the second act, which leaves one with a slight feeling of disappointment. The emotional transition in the relationship of Colin and Wendy happens far too quickly and feels contrived, meaning the clever construction of the first half goes somewhat unfulfilled.
There were some obvious nerves in the performances on opening night, which makes it difficult to give the production its full due. It will undoubtedly be worth catching later in the run when the performers hit their stride, as there's an underlying sense of fun about this show which is both refreshing and wholly therapeutic.