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If That's All There Is

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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A triumph of understated black comedy, Inspector Sands’ excellent If That’s All There Is is a surprisingly charming celebration of the monotonies of life, romance and wedding speeches. Taking its inspiration from Peggy Lee’s disenchanted torch song, “Is That All There Is?”, the play challenges the human aspiration to live a life which mirrors the passion and drama of power ballads and Spanish soap operas. Reality, as the play’s characters soon figure out, is a lot more mundane.

The play opens at the wedding reception of newlywed Daniel and Frances where, after a wedding speech presented as bland as an office presentation, the proceedings as unexpectedly cut short. Flashing back in time, Daniel speaks to a relationship counselor regarding his fiancée’s sociopathic nature, failing to recognise that she is delicately trying to kill him.

Commendably playing the part as if he were a disengaged motivational speaker, Ben Lewis’s pleasingly awkward performance as the clueless husband-to-be is a very well observed portrayal of the modern man, more familiar with a trusty stapler than a trusty steed.

As the repressed fantasist fiancée, Lucinka Eisler is exceptional, capturing the delicate mania of her character without disconnecting from the play’s subtle, if skewed, sense of realism. Her hilarious dramatic-monologue-without-the-drama is one of the performance’s highlights, demonstrating her sharp sense of comic timing as the humdrum femme-fatale.

Julia Innocenti’s dual role as no-nonsense therapist and Frances’s disconnected work experience girl Christina is flawless. Changing between the two characters as easily as she changes costumes on stage, the delightfully blunt nature of Innocenti’s laconic and short counselor is utterly charming.

Featuring a fantastic soundtrack and some of the most dramatic shredding in the history of theatre, the play champions the anti-climactic nature of everyday life and wedding cake. Whilst the action at times breaks into fantasy, an impromptu salsa or a dramatic, windswept rendition of 'Against All Odds', fancy soon subsides and reality is pathetically revealed.

When the performance has reached its end and its characters have met that final disappointment, certain disenchanted poignancy remains which Peggy Lee would be proud of.

- Scott Purvis


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