By Jen Bolsover
Billed as ‘a disturbingly funny story’, Dead to Me is the tale of a man who visits a psychic not out of belief or curiosity, but simply because he has been given a gift voucher. Written by Gary Kitching, who also performs alongside Tessa Parr, the play centres around the bond he forms with the psychic and the life choices that he makes as a result of their connection.
There is a lot of dramatic potential in the idea of the grief-stricken sceptic who suddenly finds that they want to believe. Unfortunately the writing is too thin to realise this potential, leaving the characters and situation underdeveloped.
A clearer sense of the play’s chronology, whether conveyed in the text or by the direction, might have helped. Steven’s transition from sceptic to believer seems too quick to be plausible. It is only fair to mention that there may have been fleeting clues in the text which were drowned out by the excessive noise that plagued the performance (caused by a nearby company warming up), in which case the character’s journey might have been much easier to buy into. However, indicating the passage of time during the moments between scenes would have provided greater clarity.
The physical performances are strong – the staging is essentially choreography and both Parr and Kitching execute it well, handling a challenging space with ease. They are both skilled, charismatic performers in their own rights, but they lack chemistry. This is due in part to the lack of development in their characters. As watchable as both actors are, they are playing characters who are written in general terms. They need more specifics, more depth, more subtext and more darkness. There are flashes of black comedy, but they are too few and too inoffensive. The play as a whole is a little bit soft, a little too gentle, which is a pity when some of the dialogue suggests the potential for something edgier, wittier and darker. As it stands the play is well-presented and well delivered, but it lacks the bite or the sparkle that would make it truly memorable.
Dead to Me runs at Summerhall until 23 August (not 14 or 21) at 17:30. Running time is 1 hour.