VAULT – Death Suits You ★★★

Death Suits You is a musical black-comedy where Death complains about being underappreciated.

Death has a bone to pick with you. A one-man show performed by Sam Hooper, written by Sam Hooper and Robert Tripolino, Death Suits You takes the form of something akin to a Ted Talk. Death personified here is no hooded grim reaper but rather a smartly dressed spokesman. The topic of his lecture is that we have been taking him and his work for granted for centuries!

The darkly-comic premise sees Death’s unappreciation extending to funerals – where his work and craftsmanship fails to get a mention. He then proceeds to present various case studies to illustrate his artistry in creating the circumstances for an array of deaths. This smörgåsbord of mortality illustrates Death’s assertion that he doesn’t like to repeat himself. 

His targets contained in these case files are diverse covering ages and generations. His methods range from simple suicides to carefully-orchestrated demises that he has planned over years. Hooper employs a variety of performance genres to convey his chosen case studies. Songs, contemporary dance and spoken word are utilised to lend added colour to Death’s work.

Part of the problem with Death Suits You is that it tries to be so many things that it loses a unifying identity. Hooper has a serviceable singing voice but the few, original songs are not memorable. A veteran of international tours of Cats, Hooper is an excellent dancer. The dance image of a man drowning is certainly striking but the choreography is somewhat amorphous. 

Trying to tell so many stories within the hour runs the risk of the show becoming repetitive and while the variety of presentation styles are aimed at off-setting that, it does feel like the show is constantly changing gears. As a dramatic text, more is less. The brisk pace of rattling through the various case studies means we never truly dwell on the human experience of each demise. 

At certain points, Death has a mischievous grin as he doles out deadpan quips about his lethal schemes. Elsewhere, he chafes at his artistry being ignored. But the production never fully settles whether Death is a malevolent agent or a misunderstood creative.

There does seem to be a skittishness underlying Death Suits You. A fear of offending the audience. For a work that includes a section on a high school shooting, the piece overall feels a little polite. It aims to be non-offensive as a show, but in doing so it doesn’t dig deeply enough into the messy, painful contradictions that death brings.

Hooper is never less than a confident, energetic performer but this incohesive piece has his skills doing all the heavy lifting.

A black comedy with some grave errors ★★★

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