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A Dead Body in Taos

by on 28 October 2022

Control, Alt, Delete

A Dead Body in Taos

By David Farr

Fuel at Wilton’s Musical Hall, Whitechapel until 12th November, then on tour until 19th November

Review by Eleanor Marsh

A Matter of Life and Death, Ghost, The Sixth Sense and countless other movies, TV series and books deal with the endlessly fascinating subject matter of what happens when we die and how those we leave behind cope.  What happens when technology steps in and it appears that dying isn’t quite what it seems?

David Farr brings his wealth of screenwriting and theatrical experience to this difficult subject in a treat of a play that is not always comfortable to watch, but is in turn equally moving, funny and disturbing. 

The plot focuses on Sam (an enthusiastic Gemma Lawrence) who finds herself in Taos, a small town in New Mexico.  She is there to bury her estranged mother, wind up the estate and return to her life in London.  But things take a decidedly different turn when she discovers her mother Kath’s involvement in a local scientific research project. Through a series of flashbacks, we discover more about the rebellious free-spirited Kath and her life before and after marriage to Sam’s father, including a truly heart wrenching Sliding Doors moment.

A Dead Body in Taos is an imaginative and compelling narrative portraying the full range of raw and visceral emotions experienced in our human existence and how the A.I. of our future could offer a less engaged experience in which to reflect upon ourselves, connect with our loved ones and live on virtually.  The use of abstract artist Agnes Martin’s connection with Taos is a neat device to illustrate the lens through which Kath sees the world and the world sees her.

The clean and simple set allows the text to speak for itself with multimedia projections and musical score enhancing the audience connection with the social and cultural experiences, lived throughout the story’s timeline and underlining the “scientific” aspects of the play.  Hats off to Designer Ti Green, Lighting Designer Katy Morison and the Composition and Sound Design team of Ben and Max Ringham.

Director Rachel Bagshaw has assembled a top notch, versatile cast who play their multiple roles with relish, and Ingrid MacKinnon’s movement direction is spot on.  But the night belongs to Eve Ponsonby as Kath.  Her fiery and impassioned performance is captivating.  We may not always like Kath, but somehow we are always rooting for her.

The biggest mystery of life is that we do not know what happens after it ends.  The question of how we’d cope if we had control over the situation is uncomfortable.  This play takes that difficult subject and makes us think and it makes us laugh.  And that is a winning combination.

Eleanor Marsh, October 2022

Photography by Helen Murray

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
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