Death with a bit of sparkle: Underneath at the Soho Theatre (***)

Singing Celine Dion with a corpse would usually be startling.  But not in this solo production, Underneath, written and performed by Pat Kinevane.

The narrative jumps back and forth to the points in the life of the deceased – played by Kinevane – which have led to ‘Her’ current decomposition. There is an inherent playfulness attached to the darkness of show, through the staging of a stark tomb draped in gold props.

There is a chance that the audience could become lost in the melancholy of the character’s narrative. However, audience interaction and a (slightly misjudged) parody of A Place in the Sun act to ground the show.

These interludes and episodes come together to create a comprehensive tale. Underneath’s strength lies in these shifts of time and temperament, which see Kinevane create a character who is sympathetic but who also defies the audience’s pity.

There is always risk, when a production involves members of the audience, that it will fall flat. While this sometimes happen here, Kinevane’s reactions are more than enough for the rest of us to laugh it off. And, ultimately, this audience interaction helps to humanise a corpse.  

Underneath is a skewering critique of beauty –  gently at times and fierce at others. It’s a beautiful story that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt ugly.