“Everything was free”
A late jaunt to the National to The Suicide, Suhayla El-Bushra’s fiercely contemporary updating of Nikolai Erdman’s 1928 play, before it closed. Though I have to say I wasn’t entirely convinced by it, Nadia Fall’s production is visually hugely ambitious, retooled for the world of YouTubers and hipsters, but ultimately feeling as shallow as the societal trends that it is trying to satirise.
Javone Prince’s Sam Desai is long-term unemployed and newly bereft of benefits, so disillusioned with the world is he that he decides to top himself but when a film clip of him making that decision goes viral, he’s swept along for the ride as all of society try to co-opt him for their own ends. To publicise a café, to get a music deal, to highlight the lack of adequate mental health care.
But even as it lacerates politicians trying to seize the moment for themselves or people trying to get their 15 minutes of fame no matter what, the desperately unsubtle humour weighs it down severely. There’s no satirical refinement, its near pantomime at times, nor true dramatic impetus as the plotting never attempts to convince seriously, and so the play falls flat.
Which is a real shame given the impressive diversity of the cast (Rebecca Scroggs and Pal Aron stand out) and the visual strength of Ben Stones’ set and Andrzej Goulding’s video work. Another to chalk up to a frustratingly inconsistent National Theatre season.