Blithely black humour prevails
By Myron My
Everyone has moments when they feel underappreciated and ignored at work and frustrated with their overall work/life balance, but none more so than Death. This is someone who meticulously plans how each and every mortal will meet their ultimate demise, and then needs to ensure our own stupidity or actions do not interfere with these plans. Death must watch over us all the time, even when we are sleeping. In this year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival show Death Suits You, this hardworking individual recalls some of his finer achievements and attempts to have us understand the complexities of his role.
Sam Hooper as Death is a charming and charismatic performer, even if this version of Death is simply dressed in plain black shorts and a t-shirt. Perhaps this is part of Death’s plan: to appear as “one of us” and subsequently let our guard down and allow ourselves to see things from his perspective, no matter how macabre it might be. Hooper has written some great individual tales to share and despite knowing that it will not be a happy ending, the build-up and visual language he uses has the stories running through our minds as vividly as a movie.
With each narrative, Hooper has an accompanying performance piece, and the beauty of this is that it is not just song, but also dance and spoken word, which leave the audience wondering how he will interpret the next victim’s inner feelings and sadness. Hooper tailors these perfectly and the touching dance routine during his drowning victim’s tale is equally meditative and unsettling. Likewise, Hooper’s careful diction with the spoken word pieces clearly brings out the attitudes and feelings of those who are facing mortality, and are performed with strong conviction.
Despite the necessary gloom and doom theme of the show, such as Death’s retelling of poor 6-year-old Eva’s end, Hooper ensures that the audience is never left despondent. The show is littered with clever and witty laughs, such as Death’s admission that he controls the weather to create a dramatic exit for people, or how his work is a great method of population control.
Robert Tripolino‘s music is the perfect accompaniment to the stories and, in the face of Death, is effortlessly brought to life by the two-piece multi-instrumentalist band of Shanon Whitelock and Caleb Garfinkel, providing strong support to Hooper. The simple lighting throughout the show is also used well in creating the various moods and scenarios that Hooper describes.
Sadly, as with many cabaret shows during the Melbourne Cabaret Festival, Death Suits You only has a three-night run which ends on Sunday so best head off and see this show soon, before Death decides to pay you a visit instead.