When we get really old (if we get really old) what do we cling to? The furniture, the floor, or each other?
This is a choreography about ageing, stretched like a death mask, stained as a shroud. The brilliant absurdist act that is Ridiculusmus – with David Woods as Lurch-like Norman and Jon Haynes as dusty but glam wife Vi – makes getting to the living room table at an almost unbearably slow pace (punctuated with belches and farts) into an Olympic sport. It’s like Butoh performed by Bouffon clowns. Their physicality is wonderful.
Once there, speeches of gratitude emanate from both in shrill but eloquent shrieks, addressing the audience as dear companions. ‘You’re all beautiful people’, reaffirms Norman every so often. We are thus complicit in their agonising little soiree, even if the main course is noticeably absent.
The vignettes endlessly teeter between hilarity, tenderness and horror. Pills are quaffed like a fine wine then spat out, and the hankie Norman expectorates into is revealed to be a sock. Vi, it seems, is a bit saucy, enthusiastically clawing at Norman’s groin. ‘Take off your trousers!’ she demands with a ribald cackle when offered coffee. A sudden, accelerating silent movie homage, complete with jaunty music, is pleasingly Keatonesque.
It’s also incredibly touching. The adoration is palpable between the couple, including scenes when they are not quite within touching distance. So when Vi dies, it’s hard not to feel a little heartbroken, even when Norman reads out increasingly bizarre Tweets and letters of condolence.
Only the third wheel character, Arthur, doesn’t really land, offering little more than anguished symphonies of crying. But even as the final punchline hits, it is funny, until it’s not: a bit like this life.