The First Day of My Life by Timothy Bond – review

Published in Edfringereview

A lazier review might merely state the obvious flaws to this largely monologue-based meditation on death. But most of them are quite deliberate (at least one hopes so): the inactive acting (what else are actors supposed to do when delivering a monologue?), the clunky script (of course it’s going to sound clunky; one’s thoughts, especially in the face of death, as in this play, weigh heavy) goes with the territory of interior monologues – I for one respect the attempt. The premise isn’t a bad one: 4 Londoners are stuck on the tube as it’s about to be blown up.

But the play tries to have its cake and eat it. Timothy Bond’s cliché-ridden script, which includes such lines as “this is the story of my life” and “it was just a normal day”, would be perfectly excusable on the grounds of being authentic representations of ordinary speech, and one might even on these grounds forgive Bond’s recourse to cheap sentiments and cheap laughs – including the line “he must be a banker: twat!”. For isn’t that the sort of thing people say and think? Except it’s full of things that real people don’t say or think. Things like: “I call it the human condition”, “hate is the only constant”, and so on. This, too, would be perfectly excusable if that’s what Timothy Bond decided to go for in a fit of Brechtian inspiration that threw realism to the wind in a bid to get the audience thinking. But not both. Perhaps Timothy Bond couldn’t decide between either style, or – what seems more likely – he failed to notice the jarring inconsistencies in his script. Even the actors seemed to be cringing as they delivered their lines.

It is not merely with speech that Timothy Bond betrays a deficient dramatic sensibility. His tin-ear is more than matched by his feeble mind. The brazen unsubtlety of naming his characters “man”, “lady”, etc. was probably the low-point. I winced when each character came on, declaring at the outset: “I’m teen” or “I’m lady”. A good dramatist leaves it to the audience to decide if the characters stood for a particular archetype; a bad dramatist shoves it in your face, as his craft is too weak to suggest it with any skill, sensitivity or subtlety.

And one might forgive all of these flaws if the script betrayed a single original thought. Instead the script is knee-deep in fortune-cookie pseudo-profundity about the nearness of death, the importance of seizing the moment, free will, blah blah blah. An unwelcome addition to the vast genre of the dramatic memento mori.

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