views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Dysmortal Life
The Phoenix Artist Club
12th August 2015


Publicity image for Dysmortal Life

Photography provided by Delyth Law

Ah, dating. Bloody awful, isn't it? Whether you're part of a smug couple or a Bridget Jones-esque singleton, you have to agree that the rules have progressively changed for the worse in recent years, and the current state of play is fairly ghastly. Delyth Law begins her one-woman show with a presentation on human mating rituals and a selection of the different horrors she's encountered online. From the bad speller to the long distancer, all of her complaints are terrifyingly familiar, with Dysmortal Life beginning to take shape as one of those light-hearted observational comedy men-bashing shows. However, the focus soon shifts from a fairly generic rant about relationships into a more detailed and far more interesting dissection of Law's own life: the men she's loved and lost, and her adventures in getting to this point.

Although there's a certain amount of nervous energy in the initial opening lecture, as soon as Law begins talking about more personal matters, she relaxes straight away. The monologues co-written with David Hale are related by Law with a huge amount of warmth and openness, with Law very much treating us like trusted confidantes. Boyfriends, babies, Berlin - there are no-holds barred as Law examines pivotal moments in her life thus far. Some of her frank revelations blindside us, with Law's very candid demeanour keeping us drawn in. She's a thoroughly engaging and likeable performer.

Law punctuates her experiences in Europe and closer to home with short original compositions, most of which have been jointly penned with Helen Gould. Law has a very soulful voice, which she controls beautifully. Not only does she caress each syllable with care in English but also in French and German, effortlessly gliding between each language. Johanna Craven, who co-writes closing number Dysmortal Life, accompanies Law throughout on keys. Her piano playing is skilful - why more shows at the Phoenix Artist Club don't feature a live piano, I don't know, it seems incredibly natural for a venue like this - but her backup vocals don't add much and are frequently distracting rather than supportive.

Director Lorna Laidlaw brings out the humour and the raw honesty in Law's delivery, but the initial framing device feels slightly too artificial for Law's confessional style, and is certainly the only point where we don't feel completely connected to her. I'd love to see her sing more, do more cabaret, maybe even more comedy. Law is at her most powerful when she's sharing as much as possible about her true self with us.

It may not serve as much of a helpful guide in how to convert that eternal emailer or cyberman into a perfect partner, but Dysmortal Life doesn't promise any answers. It only gives the reassurance that life is hard for other people, and if you haven't yet conquered every aspect of it, you're not the only one. It's an entertaining and honest 50-minute show.

Dysmortal Life opened on 9th August and runs until 15th August 2015 at the Phoenix Artist Club, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern, Central)

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