The Living Room review by Virginia Proud


Described as a Comedy of Grief, this brilliant and hilarious devised work from LA based performers Amrita Dhaliwal & Gemma Soldati has landed from Hollywood, via Edinburgh, as part of the Melbourne Fringe programme.

Confined to The Living Room, two Accountants of Death work tirelessly to record the death toll, keeping tally on a chalkboard. Amrita rules the roost as head accountant, with new employee Gemma learning the ropes. Telephones ring throughout the show, announcing the names of newly departed. Lest you think that this all sounds a bit grim, rest assured that at times my face ached from grinning. In the best spirit of modern clowning, clever physical comedy abounds, and the absurdity fairly ricochets off the wall, along with the spillage.

We the living are welcome, it is the living room after all, but there are rules. Should you have the misfortune to die, you must – as translated to Aussie by one exuberant audience member – ‘fuck off out of there’. And not only that, la petite mort is also forbidden, leading to an abundance of gaggery and tomfoolery.

This is not a performance for the audience but with the audience. With impeccable timing and control, Dhaliwal and Soldati banter and engage us, never missing an opportunity to turn a moment into a laugh, even when we are attending memorial services for the departed. What makes this show special however, is how they move us seamlessly from moments of hilarity to moments of reflection. Interrupting the cavorting, telephones begin to ring from all over the room and the body count piles up. What happened is never explained but in 2019, our imaginations provide many possibilities.

There may not exactly be a narrative thread, but this show has things to say. Throughout the show, brilliantly set up gags take us into unexpected territory, mixing a provocative brew of culture, racism, white privilege and our human drive toward sex and violence. It is tempting to say more, but that would spoil the fun.

The costuming is brilliant, the set is jam packed with props that keep on giving. And there is a goldfish. Best of all, two fantastic performers who keep you in safe hands throughout. This is exactly the type of show that festivals like Fringe make possible and thank goodness for that, because we would be the poorer without them.

The Living Room is on until the 22th September at The Butterfly Club.

Images: Kevin Krieger

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