After his friend died from an undiagnosed heart condition aged 23, Tom Machell decided to write this monologue to raise awareness about sudden death syndrome, and to encourage young people to get ECGs.
There are lovely moments: Machell plays Spencer, a young guy whose girlfriend Gabi has just died, and he takes us through the relationship from the moment they met to a very difficult funeral. One moment Machell is extremely personable and likeable, the next he ramps up into extreme rages. It’s an impressively versatile performance.
The underpinned theme of Spencer’s rage seems important, but unresolved. There’s a thread here about masculinity, toxic and not, which never meshes with the play’s other focus of raising awareness of sudden death syndrome.
The ways it deals with toxic masculinity, too, are very surface level. There’s one character – a mate of Spencer’s – who makes dodgy misogynistic jokes, but those jokes are used to raise a laugh rather than to be questioned. Machell is presenting a load of knotty issues rather than actually interrogating them.
At one point the play stops being a play and becomes a message for getting your heart checked – obviously extremely important, but tonally jarring.
Despite some real glimmers of strength – bits when the play becomes a moving study of grief – it doesn’t quite convince us of the world it’s created: too many of the characters are too thinly written. The piece has an important message, but the material it’s wrapped in isn’t robust enough.