“Christened on a Tuesday.” American company Outside Chance have taken this classic, if rather morbid, nursery rhyme as their inspiration for their devised piece on birth, life, and death. Podcaster, enthusiastic drinker and introvert Chris arrives at “Heaven”, an ironically named town with an unusually high death rate, looking for a story. He meets PX, who works at the welcome centre/funeral home and is dealing with the deaths of her friends and family, and a “priest” who seems to work everywhere Chris goes to. The latter’s role in the piece as a whole is not entirely concrete. Truth be told, none of the roles of any of the cast are. Chris seeks his story, PX has a dark secret. In some ways the lack of a typical, straight-forward narrative can be confusing, but that’s also part of the show’s charm. It makes it unpredictable, even if the stakes are never set that high. As Chris says, “death’s not new, it’s just coming.”
That seems to be purposeful though. The residents of Heaven have a blasé attitude towards death, with them occurring so often and so strangely they have become numb to them, even retaining a sense of humour. There are scenes that feel out of place – a flashback to a fire with unexpectedly dramatic lighting and sound, a will-they-won’t-they physical theatre scene. It feels like Outside Chance are reluctant to kill their darlings, and though both scenes have artistic merit, neither adds anything significant to the piece.
Though the story and direction may be a little confused, the performances of the cast make up for them. Chris’s loneliness and sense of mortality are certainly present, though performed very subtly, and he comes off as authentic. Take the scene in which he learns of someone who died as a result of an exploded soda can; his shock is entirely realistic despite obviously having to react to that information a million times before. It’s a small thing but it makes all the difference. PX’s independence and maturity are refreshing without being clichéd (given she is the only female character), and the ubiquitous priest accounts for his general ambiguity with his charismatic stage presence. Born on a Monday may not deliver on its themes to the fullest in its story and direction, but the characterful performances make it an enjoyable watch.