Living With a Dark Lord @ Paradise in the Vault
A little clunky but always tender, Living With A Dark Lord provokes both laughter and tears
This new play from Mighty Pen Theatre teases out interconnected themes of family, memory, and the realities of growing up alongside a sibling with autism spectrum disorder. The set is homey and familiar in the intimate space, at once making us feel comfortable. Maeve and Aisling wait for their sister Catherine to arrive to help celebrate their brother Shaun’s 30th “Spawning Anniversary” – sans their brother, as per tradition.
A clear picture of the absent birthday boy is painted for us across the course of the piece, albeit somewhat ham-fistedly – it is a little suspicious that the O’Sullivan sisters have lives outside of their brother at all if so many of their conversations genuinely only circle back to the subject of him, what he did, what he’s doing and what he may do. Naturally, this may be half the point, but a little less earnest exposition can often go a long way. Regardless, we are made to well and truly feel that we know the Dark Lord in all his complexity.
There is more real feeling on display here than in the average West End show – not to mention some absolutely lovely musical arrangement – just not exactly the same level of writing experience or connectedness to the text. Indeed, as much as the sisters have a very clearly conveyed close relationship with the subject, their rapport with each other onstage and with the actual words of the script is lacking. It is possible that their performances would have been enhanced by a script written with speaking in mind rather than reading.
Funny without being farcical, warm without being oversentimental, this show is not perfect but nevertheless manages to be both important and feel-good in one.
Living With a Dark Lord, Paradise in The Vault (The Vault), 13-18 Aug, £10-£7
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