Review: Live a Little at KXT Popupstairs

Review by Kathryn Thomas


Heading up the elevator of the Kings Cross Hotel and entering the suave, romantic space of the Bordello Room, you are welcomed by a dimly lit ambience and enticing thrust space for sublenuance’s new production Live a Little, as a part of the KXT Popupstairs Season. Written and Directed by Paul Gilchrist, this one woman show explores the themes of family, career, mental health, identity, chronic illness and about a million more incredibly important and hard-hitting topics.


At first impression, the space is presented beautifully, with simplistic set pieces, like an armchair and side table, with the rest of the stage being softly decorated with dry leaves and sea shells, which makes for a poignant touch later in the play. Costume is simple with subtle changes being made on stage to suit the changes in time and place within this complex play.


Sylvia Marie Keays, playing the role of Tilly, a quirky and complicated businesswoman, having somewhat of a crisis in her life, surrounding her relationships, chronic illness and difficult past. Keays brings an honest, impressive and vulnerable performance of Tilly, we are immediately on her side, from the opening moments of the play, a silent comedic moment, where we see Tilly immerge from backstage, in her pyjamas, eating chocolates, a relatable image to say the least. Any one actor play has that immediate recognition of respect from an audience, knowing that one actor carried the entire storyline, and Keays deserves enormous praise for her seamless flow with the script. This play has some incredibly well written jokes and as rich as Keays’ performance is, some drier moments of comedy were seemingly missed and masked with a more slapstick-esq approach, regardless, Keays’ had the audience laughing. Keays’ really shines in the second half of the play, in the more dramatic and seldom moments of Tilly’s story, she is sincere, exposed and astoundingly natural.


The lighting, designed by Artie Hotchkies, in this production is incredibly well placed, timed and executed. Every change was subtle and before the audience knew it, we were snapped back into a different place in Tilly’s story. The sound scape also creates a nostalgic and familiar sensation, which is placed perfectly with the lighting design.


The most monumental part of this production is the script. Paul Gilchrist has done an exquisite job with this play, with moments of pure poetry, classic comedy, and heart-breaking drama. Particular moments of dialogue got audible gasps and rustles from the audience. Live a Little has an extraordinarily versatile play structure, that could be approached in many ways by any director, and Gilchrist has made some wonderful choices in his direction of this production.


Overall, this production is one to see, with a beautiful and memorable script by Paul Gilchrist and a stellar performance by Sylvia Marie Keays.


Image Credit: Daniela Giorgi