Review by Carly Fisher
Seeing that there was a new play by Henry Naylor on the festival scene this year, of course, as I am sure it did for others, intrigued me. Last year, one of my favourite plays that I saw at the fringe was one of his works - Angel - and certainly his name holds great weight for many when picking their shows for this year. But with this comes a certain level of expectation as well and for the first time, I’m sad to report that my expectations were greatly disappointed.
Like many people from around the world, it is clear that Naylor is angry. Angry about the way that his country and particularly its leadership handled the Covid situation. Angry about the way that people were treated. Angry about the oversights by all that led to grave consequences. Let the Bodies Pile seems to be Naylor’s response to that anger, a play to hold the government accountable for their negligence. And that part comes across strongly, that message is received and supported.
The script is broken into two parts - both 2 handers. First, it is a story about Harold Shipman and the hundreds of people that he murdered under the guise of being their GP. We follow Frank and Georgie, brother and sister, in the wake of their mother’s death. Having been absent and having left the care of their mother to her brother, Georgie’s opinions and wishes are very much relegated to second, behind Frank. When Georgie starts to suspect foul play, Frank won’t hear of it…but that doesn’t mean she will just let it go.
Unfortunately, just as this story really gets gritty, it is over. An hour (the standard time a fringe show runs for) is simply not enough time to get through two stories.
Henry Naylor plays Frank. Georgie is played by Emily Carding who then takes on the role of Justine in the second narrative of the play. The chemistry between the two improves slightly in the second story but ultimately seems quite stunted. Though both talented individuals, there is something missing in this piece - perhaps it is that they feel as though they are competing more than supporting one another?
That said, it is Carding that you will leave talking about - though not a perfect production, Carding’s commitment to character is fierce and her bold choices for her second character Justine may not make her the most likeable character but they do show her off well as an actor!
The production itself for me did not work and this was largely due to the consistent and honestly quite lazy use of black outs, even mid scene. Though the show has a big name director tied to it in the form of Darren Lee Cole, Artistic Director of the New York SoHo Playhouse, it feels as though the process may have been slightly rushed with quick blocking decisions having to be made. I appreciated the minimalism of the production elements in emphasising the loneliness and bleakness of Covid times.
Ultimately though, it is the script that takes bold swings and unfortunately sees more misses than hits - it is a big jump to connect the government to the murdering Shipman and whilst I understand the intention and message, I think that both stories needed a lot more to make that connection work.
In the end, the show is just disappointing - it’s not what I expect from such big names and sadly, this year, it won’t be a Henry Naylor play that I leave the fringe talking about.