Glad To Be Dead?
Jade Flack and Donna Flack
Make It Mine
Gullivers Lounge, Manchester
The title, Glad To Be Dead?, suggests a collection of monologues concerning people whose lives are so grim, death might be perceived as something of a relief. The tagline "A night to finish their business" implies some spooky revenge from beyond the grave might be involved. Actually, neither of these possibilities turns out to be the case.
The monologues are split equally between fictional characters and factual people. The latter are more successful, if only because the fictional characters are more of interest for their stories prior to death. The show opens with Jade Flack, who co-authored the monologues with Donna Flack, welcoming the audience in the persona of Casper the Friendly Ghost. This seems an odd choice as the character was never that popular in the UK but it establishes the ground rules of the show: the characters are able to observe and comment upon changes in society since they passed on.
A speech by Anne Boleyn is perhaps too brief to demonstrate that her observations on the impact of humanity upon the environment make her an eco-warrior. Bruce Murray has greater success with Dorian Gray ironically condemning the present-day obsession with instant gratification offered by online relationships and selfies as being vapid and trivial, lacking the sensual pleasure of courtship or the skill of an artist shaping a painting. Flack and Murray work together as Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde debating the extent to which acts which might be judged evil can be prompted by circumstances as much as by human nature.
Flack delivers one of the true-life monologues which makes excellent use of the concept of the characters observing changes in society. Reyna Angélica Marroquín, murdered in 1969 by the married man with whom she was having an affair, watches in fascination as her body is discovered in 1999 and modern forensic techniques establish the guilt of the murderer (who commits suicide to avoid imprisonment) and allow the victim to rest.
Glad To Be Dead? takes a non-judgemental approach to the characters, whose actions are regarded as arising from circumstances which could be said to be horrific. Barbara Llewellyn delivers two sharply different factual monologues. A woman accused of witchcraft avoids condemnation more than once by blaming other women and, in the afterlife, finds herself in a solitary existence as they do not seem inclined to forgive.
Kate Webster, prime suspect in the Barnes mystery, is played as hard-faced and genuinely unrepentant, refusing to care how she is judged by present-day society. She gleefully reports the grisly detail that the head of her victim, not recovered in her day, was found in the back garden of broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.
Glad To Be Dead? is an entertaining evening but lacks a way of linking together the various elements to form a concluding statement. Possibly returning to Casper the Friendly Ghost for a summing up or simply a farewell might round off the show.
Reviewer: David Cunningham