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Double Bill - The Self Help Group & Kurt Cobain’s In My Cupboard (Bristol)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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When Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, killed himself in April 1994, he, apparently, arrived as a ghost in a wardrobe of James, a 17-year-old British fan. In Kurt Cobain’s In My Cupboard, we follow the life of James, with Kurt’s help, for the next 9 years. We never really know why Kurt ended up there, or even if he is just a figment of James’ imagination, but it certainly provides humorous bewilderment for James throughout the play.

James’ journey, through university, starting (and ending) a career in a building society and his on-off relationships, enable to us understand the core moral of the story: that life is worth enjoying and make the most of it. On the whole, this is presented well, and Josh Cooper, as James, provides us with a character with whom we can empathise, and with a good sense of comic timing too.

He is supported by a family group, who provide credible Sunday Lunchtime scenes (including the smell of the food), as three generations gently discuss and argue about James’ progress through life (although quite why there are so many disparate regional accents within the family I am not quite sure). These scenes supply the highlights of the play, maybe because the actors are not actually having to over-act the roles they have been given.

The play features as the second part of a double bill at The Brewery (the Tobacco Factory’s new theatre which opened last year). They are performed by the Bristol theatre company About Time Two!, which was formed last Autumn as a partnership between Felicity Gibson, who has written and directed both plays, and Bob Havard, who acts in them both. The plays bear no relation, totally different characters, settings and stories, and yet ultimately they both seek to explore how people cope when they are really struggling.

The first play of the evening is The Self Help Group, an hour long first meeting of a group of people (intended for women), who need a little help in their lives, and Wendy, with her training and qualifications, attempts to provide this assistance.

Unfortunately, I did not find myself sympathising with this group of stereotypical characters, perhaps with the exception of the wife-beaten Gemma, played nicely by Patricia Croughan (who had the unenviable task of performing four different characters through the evening). Maybe, as a man, it is just not for me, as the male characters and indeed men generally, did not come out of the play with any great credit. As a result, I did not find myself concluding that life was perhaps worth living as much as the play perhaps wanted me to, but fortunately, after the interval, James and Kurt Cobain rectified this problem.

The plays both run until 20 June at the Brewery (opposite the Tobacco Factory) in Bristol.


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