Review: The Funny Thing About Death

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Kim Kalish, image courtesy of the artist
Published 11 Aug 2022

There are things not to like about Kim Kalish's monologue. A self professed "theatre kid", there's a bit here that feels off-the-shelf drama school: the rolling hands and open palms. There's the rom-com ideal of what true love looks like (a partner who knows your needs before you do) which feels painfully received rather than experientially given. There's the slightly grating cod self-help exhortations of it being ok not to be ok.

And yet, despite all of that, this is gorgeous theatre, sweet enough to win over even the most curmudgeonly of audience members; technically adept enough that to gripe at perceived flaws is to miss the careful composition of the whole. The story of Kalish's (ongoing) experience of grief after the death of the love of her life does exactly what the best theatre should do: expanding the imagination and empathy, opening a window into an experience we'll all have, but so few of us will have the words or skill to articulate usefully.

"This isn't going to be fun for you," Kalish warns us, in one of a number of varied and unforced interactions with the audience. Indeed, it's her management of tone and pace that's most impressive here, bringing us in to punctuate the story and support step changes in the emotional force. Elsewhere she leavens the tough tale with comedy, pitched just right and with joke-writing as good as any you'll find on the Fringe. We're given a proper dramatic structure, a range of beautiful characterisations, some genuinely romantic moments and an emotional climax which resists easy resolution. There's nothing flashy or fancy here: just great writing and wonderful acting, and that's a privilage to watch.