wed 17/04/2024

Paul Foot, Soho Theatre review - how to discover the meaning of life | reviews, news & interviews

Paul Foot, Soho Theatre review - how to discover the meaning of life

Paul Foot, Soho Theatre review - how to discover the meaning of life

Personal show from the absurdist comic

Paul Foot describes a breakthrough moment after decades of mental fragilityJonathan Birch

It's probably fair to say that Paul Foot is an acquired taste for some; his absurdist, poetic comedy isn't for everyone but he has built a strong and loyal following without the help of television exposure. And now in Dissolve, which debuted at the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe, his comedy takes a more personal turn as he describes the mental health problems that have dogged him for decades.

Foot draws the audience in gently with some trademark whimsy though, as he describes the “disturbances” in his head and also tells a convoluted tale about a bird. Yes, it's a contrived metaphor he tells us, but he's preparing us for what follows.

In a well constructed show, Foot gradually fills in the details of his story, but there are wonderful digressions – to ancient Egypt, fantasising about politician Chuka Umunna or recalling orienteering trips with his dad, and wondering what kind of world we might create if we could start from scratch. What would we keep? What would we jettison?

He starts at the end – something that happened one afternoon on a March day two years ago that changed his life – to take us back to the beginning, the point in childhood where he believes his lifelong mental fragility is rooted.

There are meaty subjects in Dissolve – mental ill health, and the pain and loneliness it can bring – yet this is resolutely not a downbeat show, as Foot places nuggets of comedy as he leads us through the absorbing (and at times sad) tale. And what happened two years really was life-changing for Foot. There wasn't a ta-da moment, but the wonderfully quotidian nature of his breakthrough makes it kind of surreal and all the more moving.

The show didn't quite hit its marks on the night I saw it – possibly because Foot had managed to lock himself out of the venue and so started the show late. But it's a warm and engaging hour nonetheless, an enlightening look at mental health and one man's journey back to emotional equilibrium.

Foot leads us through the absorbing (and at times sad) tale

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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