Bits Of Me Are Falling Apart, starring Adrian Edmondson | Review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Thearte

Bits Of Me Are Falling Apart, starring Adrian Edmondson

Review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Thearte

He may not be a Young One any more, but in middle-age Adrian Edmondson seems to be reduced to a listless, self-pitying whinge.

At least that’s the tone of Bits Of Me Are Falling Apart, taken from William Leith’s 2009 book of the same name. It was described at the time as being like an ‘Izzardesque, expertly paced stand-up routine’ by Time Out magazine, so you can see why the Soho Theatre the home of ambitious comedy, might want to adapt it. But there’s not much evidence of vigour or humour here.

The grumbles of Edmondson’s unnamed character are familiar, repeated with scant wit or insight and engendering little empathy for a middle-class architect of his first-world problems.

He’s a writer who squandered his money in his youth so gripes about having missed the boat on soaring property prices. Becoming a recent father seems to have been a casual move, it feels more like a plot device to hang a monologue on than a real emotional tie. He talks a lot about the ‘death of love’, but we never really feel it.

Most writers have indulged their mid-life introspection at one point or another, but either Willaim Leith’s original, or this adaptation by Edmondson and the Soho’s artistic director Steve Marmion, just hits over-familiar ideas.

Physically he frets about his ailing body, from the suspect mole on his shoulder to the dodgy knee, and tries to fight back against the years by eating quinoa flakes and doing Pilates.

The piece’s literary roots are obvious, which makes for largely flat theatre, redeemed only by Lily Arnold’s inventive staging, with plastic toys suspended from the ceiling, amusingly standing in for adult equivalents.

But linguistic flourishes are few and far between as Edmondson’s character mulls his dreary existence. Middle age is ‘smiling through with other divorced dads in a car park,’ he wearily concludes.

He recalls witnessing a dying fish flapping about, ineffectually and with decreasing vigour. How much more do you need your metaphors signposted? The ‘falling apart’ is supposed to emotional as well as physical, as if you haven’t guessed, but any anguish is muted. There are moments when the bleakness is ramped up, mulling on his grandparents’ deaths from the likes of emphysema and a stroke, but  Edmondson’s weary amiability knocks the edge off some of these darker existential musings. 

Throughout the 70 minutes, he delivers a muted performance. No one’s expecting Vyvyan, but there’s little for him to sink his teeth into, and the resigned calmness does nothing to add either drama or strong comic counterpoints, both of which are much-needed.

Middle-age is here portrayed as a mildly depressing wasting away, as the excitement of each new youthful experience subsides under each new reminder of mortality. But for much of the monologue you’ll wish Edmondson’s character just to get over himself and stop his dull, entitled carping.

Review date: 10 Nov 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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