‘What Goes on Without Me’ Asks Profound Questions About Mortality: Review

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what goes on without me
What Goes on Without Me

★★★✰✰

If you died, but had the ability to spend ten minutes in any location on Earth, where would you choose? That is the question facing Jude in Nottingham New Theatre’s What Goes on Without Me. When Jude appears in a waiting room in their pyjamas and is greeted by a zany receptionist offering tea and dry biscuits, they are confused. As they sip their tea, declaring it the best cup they have ever had, the receptionist slowly explains Jude’s situation: they have died, but now must choose somewhere to revisit for ten minutes. There are two caveats—they cannot interact with anyone they know, and they cannot go back in time.

Understandably, the situation causes Jude stress. They cannot choose somewhere that’s meaningful that they’ll still enjoy, and they are fixated on the idea that they may regret their decision. Their short, borderline snappy answers are the opposite of the employee, who is the definition of laidback. They are upbeat and cheery, offering Jude biscuits and doing yoga mid-conversation. The pair have great chemistry, and they bounce off each other throughout the production.

The scenes are punctuated with soundbites of people describing their answer to the question. There’s a variety of answers—Skegness, Richmond Park on a hot summer’s day, a cat café for stray cats—but all of them refer to the theme of nature. At first, it is hard to see how this links with Jude’s dilemma, but as they delve deeper into their childhood, it begins to make more sense. Alessia Lowcock’s writing really shines in these parts: the detail that Jude goes into describing how humble their mother was is remarkable.

While the concept is certainly promising, theSpace on the Mile – Space 2 is unsuitable for the performance due to its layout. The way the table where most of Jude and the employee’s conversations take place is positioned meant that Jude had their back to me for the majority of the production, while the employee’s back is to the audience members on the other side of the room. I couldn’t see Jude’s facial expressions for the majority of the show, which unfortunately does detract from the performance.

With a venue better suited to the staging, What Goes On Without Me could be an amazing play. Lowcock’s writing is both profound and imaginative; a particular highlight is when the receptionist tells Jude about where famous people chose to spend their final minutes on Earth. The play asks deep questions about mortality, while reminding us the importance of appreciating the basic things in life.

What Goes on Without Me will be performed at theSpace on the Mile – Space 2 on 22, 24 and 26 August at 3:10pm as part of Edinburgh Fringe.

Words by Ellen Leslie


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