Photo by John Persson, The Suicide Company
“Jump, pussy!” Yes, I was shocked too when Shanice shouted this at Sam as he stood on the rooftop ready to take his life. Just as shocked that a play called The Suicide is one of the funniest comedies I have seen in a while. Back at my favourite place, The National Theatre, I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining this modern version of Erdman’s controversial production during the Soviet reign was.
Sam Desai (Javone Prince) missed his appointment at the job centre because he was being a good citizen, his benefits were cut and naturally, this led to stresses at home. He and his wife Maya are already squeezed into his mother-in-law’s flat, so things aren’t looking great. Sam’s ego is crushed as he can’t provide for his wife and they’ve not even had a honeymoon yet – Maya didn’t class Great Yarmouth as a proper one! The socio- economic pressures are far too much and Sam seeks an escape, however the reactions to his suicide threat are not quite what you would expect from his peers.
Everyone wants a piece of Sam’s suicide for themselves. It seems that the socialist failures of society have led everyone to capitalise on Sam’s suicide. Shanice wants to increase her social media status, the social workers want more funding and support, Demetri’s rapping career goes viral and Erica is hoping her organic cafe will get some publicity, not to mention Patrick wants Sam to be the protagonist of his new film. What is Sam supposed to do? Is this suicide to escape his own problems or help others with theirs?
The audience connect to Sam’s feelings and emotions through the skilful use of
sound and lighting, adding a whole new dimension to The Suicide. Freeze frames and video projections really allow you to enter Sam’s mind as you are taken away from his chaotic estate in London, entering the complexities of his thoughts and feelings.
Ironically, for me, the main focus of this play was not the suicide itself but instead, the influences of society and its individuals within; how such a sad happening can be dismissed as long as it benefits others. I was surprised to see how light a subject Sam’s suicide attempt was when people knocked on his door seeking the opportunity to better their own lives at the expense of his. Social media ‘likes’, rapping careers, business funding… surely this is all insignificant when someone is about to take their own life? The more the play developed and explored themes of capitalism vs socialism, love vs hate and rich vs poor, I began to realise how closely the performance reflects our modern day society.
Originally written by the Russian playwright Erdman in 1928 during the Stalinist era, Suhala El-Bushra and Nadia Fall have transferred this play to 21st century London where despite the cultural and ideological differences, the topics are still just as relevant. The Suicide leaves you wondering how much has really changed in the past 88 years.