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Review: Quarter Life Crisis (Bridge Theatre)

Yolanda Mercy's award-winning play comes to the central London theatre

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Quarter Life Crisis
© Helen Murray

Mid-life crises are characterised as a time where you might take up some impractical and unexpected hobby like basket weaving – or decide that mullets are long overdue a comeback. But if you halve that again – what do you get? Career woes, family troubles and a general undercurrent of existential angst?

That's the basic thrust of Yolanda Mercy's endearing and amusing solo show, which is part of the Bridge Theatre's socially distanced season of solo performances. Following the story of London dweller Alicia as she grapples with new life (her cousin giving birth), grief (a family member's passing) and her own lack of drive to find a career (or even whether or not that is something that should generate any worth). Life, death and all the sandwich filler in between.

Mercy herself is a brilliant, captivating presence, using language like paint on different brushes – broad strokes of place and setting mixed with intricate details in rhythms and rhymes. It's hard not to hold onto her every word as she conjures up Alicia's technicolour existence.

A speedy 50 minutes, director Jade Lewis does everything right early on – a pumping soundtrack greets audiences as they enter (front of house staff wander through the space, delivering pints and snacks to those seated), while some fantastic projections flank Mercy's time on stage provide vibrant novelty. Considering the show began as a Fringe award-winner, it transitions seamlessly to the more cavernous Bridge Theatre space, housing a third of its conventional capacity.

But the piece wanders and never seems to delve as deeply as it could into the various themes and issues orbiting Alicia's life. She may describe herself as a hot mess, but the ending just feels a bit, lukewarm.

Mercy is therefore at her best when she's chatting and bouncing off the socially distanced audience – as welcoming as ever despite the redesigned space spreading punters far and wide. Gloved and masked team members wander through the audience with a microphone on a stick to allow strangers to answer Mercy's questions – a refreshing relief to hear voices from behind the obligatory masks.