Fans of The Musketeers and This is England will already be familiar with the faces and talents of Tamla Kari and Michael Socha.
What will be more of a novelty is seeing them on stage in a stripped-back play about bereavement, developed from ideas that came from a hit Edinburgh show in 2014.
Liam Borrett's This is Living is currently showing at Trafalgar Studios exploring the complex process of bereavement through the conversations that Michael (Socha) has with his dead wife Alice (Kari). The play starts at the moment of her death and follows through to the morning of her funeral.
Cleverly, designer Sarah Beaton sets the action on a raised platform covered in plastic and splashed copiously with water to represents the lake that Alice drowned in. This is where Alice and Michael meet, seemingly oblivious to their soaking clothes. The soggy environment is bleak and uncomfortable mirroring their suffering.
This is Living is just as much about Alice's grief as Michael's as (through his eyes) we see her sorrow at losing life too soon. Borretti reminds us that death not only affects the people who are left behind, the person who dies is also bereaved.
The absent character of their daughter is mentioned frequently and is the thread that connects them to each other. As he comes to terms with his situation, Socha is unbearably vulnerable at times, his good-looking boyish features racked with pain and confusion. The play could have been extremely bleak without flashback scenes of the early days of the couples romance, Kari's Alice a bubbly mass of energy and fun.
If there is on thing missing it is a slight disconnect physically — Kari and Socha aren't as tactile as you would expect from a young married couple. However they make up for this with a dynamic verbal connection through Borretti's dialogue which slowly unpicks their story bit by bit, revealing the depth of their love for each other.
Exploring the huge complexities of emotions involved Borretti's sensitive and naturalistic script is by turns terrifying, heartbreaking, comforting and life-affirming. In the hands of two of our best upcoming and coming young stars This is Living triumphs. An emotionally intelligent and surprisingly entertaining show.
This is Living is on at Trafalgar Studios 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY until 11 June. Tickets from £32. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.