by Siddiq Islam
‘What?! … like … Jesus!’ ‘Yes, exactly like Jesus!’
It’s wonderful to see Oxford’s theatre scene thriving again post-COVID. Opportunities to see fantastic productions like this were not regularly available a year ago. Dead Man’s Suitcase posits the following question – is it possible for your life to have a reset button?
The story tells of John (played by George Vyvyan), a downbeat, disheartened obituary writer who hates his job and his wife. He decides to fake his own death so he can date other people and follow his dreams of becoming a ‘fantasy true-crime novelist for children’. This unusual setting and narrative allow for some very original and funny scenes, and the lead sang these absurd songs consistently and emotionally.
John’s wife Mary (played by Eva Bailey) had a wonderful voice that came more into life in the second half of the musical, in which she mastered some beautiful solos. Tom Freeman’s characters provided great comedic relief, the highlight being his short number as a Freudian psychiatrist, which had the whole audience laughing! Eliana Kwok was great in her role as John’s colleague, beating him to a promotion by sucking up to their mean boss. My only criticisms are some occasionally off harmonies and that it would have been nice if the actors’ voices were more audible over the music.
Overall, the musical was well-written and authentic, and had a good balance of comedy. Seeing this show and others has made me excited for more upcoming theatre at Oxford. I saw the show on Thursday, and as of writing, there are still a few tickets left for Saturday night (the rest are sold out!), if you’re looking for an hour of good entertainment.
Dead Man’s Suitcase ran from Tuesday 29 November to Saturday 3 December at the Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford.