by guest critic Joanna Trainor
“I wanted to be gentle when I blew his mind.”
Christopher Brett Bailey could read the Argos catalogue and have an audience hang on his every word. But his talent for storytelling is matched by his weird and wonderful writing, and so we get to take another trip down the rabbit hole of his inspired or insane work.
“Suicide Notes” is the title of Bailey’s collection of short stories, and this production at the Shoreditch Town Hall is the live version of that. Every evening is slightly different as he picks a selection of the scripts out on the table, and they vary in length from a couple of lines to full-length pieces. Because although the running time is approximate, and we can stick any complaints about the timing “straight up (y)our own arseholes”, the whole book would take something like six hours. After recently performing for nearly five hours at the Battersea Arts Centre, I reckon he’s got it in him.
Bailey is known for his intense, motor-mouth performances and Suicide Notes does not disappoint. He speeds along at a 100 miles an hour, particularly during pieces like “Dairymilk Drag Queen”. Words are fired into the room, so that you may not actually catch all of them unless your brain works as quickly as Bailey’s does. But the brilliant and bizarre worlds that he creates completely pull you in, so that it doesn’t feel like it matters if you miss the odd phrase here and there.
As well as these darker stories, there are also those that are more upbeat and quirky, like “What have you”. It’s lovely play on words that even gets Bailey into a bit of a tongue twist.
It’s really interesting to see what bits different audiences members find funny – sometimes the laughter even surprises Bailey. My plus one for the evening said to me after the show that Bailey is able to articulate your half-formed thoughts, so everyone in the room resonates with a specific story or section. People look at each other and nod and laugh together, in a “That’s so true!” kind of way. The relaxed atmosphere at the Shoreditch Town Hall gives that community vibe we all want from our theatre – even if the stories being told don’t make us feel all that comfortable.
Christopher Brett Bailey is the master of what he does, and whatever form or genre of performance he plays with, he nails it. And seriously if he ever does do a show reading the Argos catalogue or the Yellow Pages I’d still get a ticket.
Suicide Notes runs until 4 May.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.