Review by Daz Gale
VAULT Festival is in full swing now as it continues throughout all of February. Among the 500+ shows vying to get your interest is the interestingly titled Death Suits You. Having previously presented the show at the 2019 Camden Fringe Festival where it was nominated as part of OffFest, this is a show that has history and a following. It may have had glowing reviews in the past but would this show suit me personally or would it bore me to death?
Death Suits You takes us into the world of Death as he vents to the audience about how much work goes in to his job of killing people and how he never gets the credit he deserves for the ingenuity of ways he comes up with to have them meet their maker (in this case, him). Through the course of one intense hour, Death recounts several key people he has killed in his time in a surreal show which is as Dark as it gets.
Written by Sam Hooper and Robert Tripolino, this black-comedy features a mix of music, poetry and performance interspersing the spoken dialogue that takes up the bulk of the show. The writing itself is consistently strong, pushing the absurdity of the subject in a way that is always funny, even if you feel bad for laughing at matters. The straight way the writing is delivered only goes to make the evening funnier as he demands to be taken seriously and instead we all laugh in the face of Death.
Sam Hooper also performs the piece as Death personified. Embodying his character, Sam gives a creepy yet captivating portrayal of the mysterious figure as he eyeballs the audience while telling stories and revealing the next victim from his box of death. Sam reveals himself to be a fantastically varied talent as the performance pieces range from musical numbers, interpretative dance, movement, poetry and rap – all of which he handles with ease, the consummate performer he is.
Directed by Gabrielle Scawthorn, the sparse and cold space of The cavern in the Vaults becomes the perfect setting for this chilling show, with Sam pacing around from side to side as the intimate audience dare not get too close to the person threatening to end their life. Clever use of light and sound bring the stories Death tells to life (ironically) as they emulate water and a graphic depiction of a car crash.
Death Suits You is a show that could veer dangerously of course due to its sensitive nature (there is a content warning you are strongly advised to read before watching this show). The way it keeps its tone consistent is a testament to the fantastic writing and Sams own straight faced performance as Death. Perhaps some of the stories could be seen as slightly bad taste, but if this show hopes to push boundaries, it does it in the best way possible thanks to the calibre of the writing and performance.
As the show reaches the end of its short life, a message is revealed which should be life-affirming as it asks us what “Death” really is with the thought provoking subject of a second death. My only niggle is this was touched on all too briefly and I wouldn’t have minded a bit more exposition to increase the impact this moment and the message from it would have – but when you only have 60 minutes to recount hundreds of year of killing everyone on the planet, this is to be expected.
Death Suits You may not be the easiest of watches but it is one that captures your attention from its first breath until its very last. Its dead funny writing is executed to perfection thanks to Sam Hooper’s slaying performance, making this overall one killer show.
Death Suits You plays at VAULT Festival until 10th February. Tickets from https://vaultfestival.com/events/death-suits-you-2023/