Kiss of Life
The intimate ambience of Drill Hall 3 is a perfect venue for Kiss of Life. Chris Goode sets up a rapport with his audience with what might seem like the hackneyed direct address of the nervous stand-up comedian. He enquired after our well being, taking time to discuss some house lights that were disturbing three immaculately attired foreign ladies in the front row and we had to raise our hands to indicate how happy we were. And he kept gulping from a bottle of mineral water, as if he were very nervous.
But coming from someone so obviously sincere, this was no trite routine. Rather, it was an introduction to a style of performance that seemed to deliberately eschew theatrical conventions; this was an inherently non-dramatic performance. He was settling us down, establishing a relationship with us, and letting us know what to expect: he was a storyteller rather than a thesp.
Nonetheless, he was presenting us with the dramatic. The house lights go down, the action commences with Chris standing on a chair (aka the railings of a bridge) bent on committing suicide because he'd just seen Kenneth Brannagh's Hamlet. He changes his mind, but is pushed from behind and plummets towards the murky river through the psychological space that exists between life and death, or, as he later comments, between the digital binaries 1 and 0 (references to Laurie Anderson's Home of the Brave here?). But, happily, he is dragged from the watery grave and given the kiss of life by a seemingly average, and modest, superhero, who resuscitates him and then does a runner.
Subsequently, Chris recounts the tale of his namesake's rebirth from the limbo inhabited by unfortunate souls who are the living dead: those who swarm around us in the supermarket, sit next to us on the tube, hiding behind their walkmans, before they disappear into average houses to plonk themselves in front of the artificial realities provided by the super-abundance of channels on digital TV. Those who lose contact with the essentials in life, human contact, companionship, love.
This being a story, Chris is redeemed by a homeless youth, a mysterious figure, bent on killing himself while he still full of life and appears yet to be indestructible. They become lovers and it is a relationship of tenderness and understanding. For Chris it is a considerable learning curve: he is revivified, he develops a zest for life at its best, fraught with ambiguities, rough around the edges, with no beginning and middle and end (those fallaciously satisfying accoutrements of fictional realities with which we have been force-fed).
This tale is full of compassion. It has some sparks of originality, humour, and even a few witticisms that set the audience laughing out loud. Chris Goode's choice of a storytelling style lends the narrative a touching sincerity. However, it is this style that I found the most disappointing. He has written us characters here, people with human emotions, engaged in dialogue, in arguments, but in presenting these characters he has eliminated any attempt at transformation at the cost of emotional depth. In this pared down production, stripped of even a modicum of performative embodiment, the characters are unsatisfying and even on occasion sham. It smacks of naivety and even ineptitude. At times it seems amateurish.
I have never seen his work before: in fact, I was attracted by the colourful flier, which seemed to promise 'a dazzling mix of sound and image a high-risk comedy that does the impossible'. This was patently not realised, in fact, as far as 'image' was concerned it was decidedly dull. I wasn't the only member of the audience who felt like phoning the Advertising Standards Council to complain about a contravention of the Trade Description Act.
"Kiss of Life" runs until 23rd November
Reviewer: Jackie Fletcher