Living a Little @ King’s Head Theatre

Produced by Riot House Theatre, and In Your Face Theatre – the same guys who staged the ridiculously enjoyable Trainspotting Living a Little is a show about zombies, friendship and love. Full of brilliant comedy, as well as some heartbreaking scenes, writer Finlay Bain (who also performs) and director Jordan Murphy have created an entertaining piece of work.

Paul (Paul Thirkel) and Rob (Bain) are two flatmates stuck amidst a zombie apocalypse. It’s not clear how long they have lived under these conditions or how the human population even started turning into zombies, but the two have a comfortable arrangement in the flat. That’s until Penelope (Pearl Appleby) bursts in through their door – the duo’s first ever contact with another person. She’s clearly been through some tough stuff, and Rob’s “live a little” attitude isn’t helping. But when the three let loose in a drug fuelled evening, true emotions are revealed, and they’re forced to deal with the consequences.

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The cast is absolutely terrific. Thirkel is instantly likeable as Paul. His physical comedy is on point, and each of his movements is calculated to hit a punchline perfectly. Opposite him, Bain’s Rob is obnoxious with his misogynistic and laddish behaviour. But the character’s brashness is balanced well by the writer’s ability to still make him sympathetic with the love he shows for his friend. Appleby’s performance is strong, and a particular highlight is Penelope’s hilariously extreme and completely valid opinion of the X Factor, which understandably received a round of approving applause from the audience.

The show is very fast-paced, and the back and forths between the actors are almost constant, but never tiring to watch. This tempo emphasises the emotions present in the more touching and intimate scenes, which are neatly and rhythmically placed into the piece. There is a lot of information to digest in 60 minutes, but Bain has successfully managed to create a story that’s easy to follow. The ambiguity surrounding the conditions in which the zombies have appeared is intriguing, and allows for some grotesque speculation by the characters (which is great), but also doesn’t fully remove the fictitious aspect of the situation – by that I mean there could very well be a zombie apocalypse one day, you just can’t ever know.

This is an energetic and funny show from beginning to end. With its pop-culture quips, impressive set, and a cast who genuinely look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage, Living a Little is a zombie apocalypse you’re definitely going to want to be a part of.

Living a Little is at the King’s Head Theatre until 14th May.

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Guards at the Taj @ Bush Theatre

The newly re-developed Bush Theatre building boasts a more sustainable and a completely accessible space. The revamped theatre now has an additional studio space and an attic rehearsal room, allowing for more work to be produced. Rajiv Joseph’s Guards at the Taj is the new building’s first show, and a great choice to open the renovated space. With brilliant humour, dark themes and two strong performers, the play is a superb imagining of the myths surrounding Shah Jahan and the Taj Mahal, and a wonderful performance.

Best friends Humayun (Danny Ashok) and Babur (Darren Kuppan) are guarding the Taj Mahal. It’s been 16 years in the making, and finally, it’s almost complete. But the emperor has declared that no one, apart from those in charge of building it, shall look at the Taj until it is finished. Babur desperately wants to sneak a glance of the most beautiful monument in the world, but Humayun is apprehensive. After all, going against the emperor has terrible consequences, which the guards soon find out.

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Photo: Marc Brenner

Soutra Gilmour’s dark and ominous bare set serves as a perfect canvas to Ashok and Kuppan’s performances, who deliver the task of bringing to life Joseph’s India extremely well. Kuppan is loveable as Babur, constantly making fun of Humayun’s seriousness with admiration and love. He performs Babur’s humour with delight and equally presents the character’s guilty turmoil with great sympathy. Opposite him, Ashok’s caring and concerned Humayun is powerful, and the two have incredible chemistry. The friendship projected onto the stage is moving, and there is a particularly touching moment where Ashok meticulously washes blood off Kuppan’s body, taking care to remove every last bit. This gentle action beautifully captures the deep love the two characters have for each other, and a scene that has the potential to be funny or awkward becomes tender with Jamie Lloyd expert direction.

Joseph’s text is a striking exploration of duty and friendship that weaves folklore and fact into an energetic 80 minutes. The characters are empathetic and complex, so there is never a dull moment, especially as both actors do well in engaging the audience and animating the minimal stage. Guards at the Taj is a great piece of work, and an excellent way to open the new and improved Bush Theatre.

Guards at the Taj is at the Bush Theatre until 20th May.