What I thought was a merely over-indulgent promotional trailer, with large quantities of wine and abundant pizzicato on the cello, is in fact rather accurate a representation of Killing Time. Wine and music are indeed omnipresent, and while these are pretty good things in themselves, the play seems to struggle to offer anything deeper. Killing Time is supposedly about “inspiration, music, life and the right to die”. What the play actually looks like is more a collection of sparkles of humour and magic in a universe imbued with morbidity and artificiality.
Former cellist Hester (Brigit Forsyth) has been diagnosed with cancer, and is approaching the end of her life. This however doesn’t change her histrionic and sarcastic personality in the slightest, making the life of social worker Sara (Zoe Mills) rather challenging. The play investigates the backgrounds and personal concerns of the two, using their social roles to raise philosophical questions. Is it right to pester people right before they die? Should one be left alone? Should people get nicer towards the end? How is one supposed to be remembered?
Mother and daughter in real life, Forsyth and Mills end up performing an intimate conversation over wine (a lot of it), giving it a slightly more exciting twist. The themes of death, love and memory should be sublimated and acquire more resonance in the words of a soon-to-die celebrity and a social worker obsessed with caring for terminal patients. This however is not always done effectively, and discussions sometimes remain somewhat artificial. The surface of big questions is scratched upon, unlocking some potential, but not investigating it to the fullest.
On the other hand, the technical aspects of this play are commendable. Combining music, digital film, and quality lighting, Killing Time creates several small moments of pure magic. The peaks of the play are reached when Hester plays (and records herself while playing) the cello, as well as when the stage spins, creating scenes comparable to film shots. This feels all the more brilliant in the intimate space of Park Theatre: it felt like being part of a movie while being able to enjoy the actors’ physical presence.
These tricks help the play raise to the status of a remarkable piece of theatre. While the expectations of a truly thought-provoking play are somewhat fallen short of, the audience can still enjoy some funny and witty lines and outstanding music.
Killing Time is running at the Park Theatre till 4th March at 19:00 Tuesday to Saturday, and at 15:15 on Thursday and Saturday. You can book your tickets from https://boxoffice.parktheatre.co.uk/
CAST AND CREW
Director: Antony Eden
Designer: Paul Colwell
Lighting and Video Design: Kostis Mousikos
Cinematography and Video Design: Alan Walsh
Sound Designer: Harry Johnson
Production Management: Lars Davidson
Set Construction: Michael Imms
Cast: Brigit Forsyth, Zoe Mills, Robin Hurford