REVIEW: Real Life at The Studio Royal Exchange

Ben Kewin’s one man show at Royal Exchange is hilarious.
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Kate Morris finds Ben Kewin’s one man show a welcome antidote to a stressful week at work…

It’s Friday and it’s been one of those unnecessarily stressful and borings weeks. It’s so utterly boring because the stress that I’ve endured was petty everyday issues. Too many meetings, creeping deadlines, paper work and forms that I am yet to be convinced serve any other purpose than to be ‘busy work’.

‘there’s no denying
the piece is hilarious’

Nonetheless I’ve let these petty (barely) problems get on top of me, so thankfully I am booked in to watch Real Life in the Royal Exchange Studio. To my elation, this piece fulfills me the way a stiff gin and tonic would after such a week.

Written and performed by Ben Kewin, the show takes the form of six short plays of increasing lunacy with Kewin playing a multitude of roles. His aim? To single handedly show the audience how to live a better life.

Whether it’s an undercover cop tracking down scientists flogging stolen DNA (and fighting the ever frustrating battle with HR), an emotionally burdened Samaritans volunteer or sword and wand wielding dreamer, Kewin does it with bags of energy and a hysterical payoff.

Borderline insanity aside, these short stories offer a surreal and farcical look into everyday issues, and each piece had an enlightening theme – strength, being a nobody, dreams, fear and crying.

I’m not going to sugar coat it. This entire piece will look like a huge piss take. While sporting a rather snug green turtle neck, Kewin stomps across the stage to deliver monosyllabic lines (to himself), on a set made of children’s play furniture, with enough costume changes to make a drag queen green with envy. So I can imagine how it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

But there’s no denying the piece is hilarious. I had to reign in my own laughter during the introduction to a scene “women would enjoy. To show that sometimes women cry, not because they don’t have a reason or mental illness”. I laughed so hard that it sat on the fence of appreciating humor and slipping into my own realm of madness.

Proving laughter is the best medicine, Real Life was a much-needed remedy for my week, demonstrating how through the power of storytelling and theatre (in fact, all the arts), we can get a better understanding of the emotions of others and our own.

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