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Bird's Theatre Review: '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover'

'50 Ways To Leave Your Lover'
at the Bush Theatre
running until 9th August

"Don't cry", pleads one of the leaving lovers, "this'll take so much longer if you cry."

The Bush's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover - a collaboration between five young writers - is a messily honest piece that deals with relationships and their abysmal finales. It is strikingly funny throughout - a quality underestimated by too many of our new-writing theatres and it avoids cliché, no mean feat. Best of all it pinpoints the real problem with break ups. People just don't have the ability to express themselves. That's the root of the emotional gore, all the heartfelt slapstick.

The other observations are keen too and the multiple characters slickly handled by the cast. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Claire Keelan, Ralf Little and Michelle Terry take turns to convey a sense that no matter how desperate your break-up might seem, it's almost certainly a source of casual laughs to others. When not performing, the actors sit and giggle with the audience - this is a feeling we all share, they say, we've been through this - so have you. It all rolls along nicely in front of Mika Handley's design which is simple and the better for it. and there's music too, just in case it all gets too heavy. The splitting couples rap in cloth caps, and sing the bittersweet songs of Arthur Darvill. The songs work well, somehow avoiding a descent into pure mush. There's lightness of touch required for a piece that seeks its humour in dark places.

At times we crave more development, more complexity. We get glimpses of it, like the short scene in which one of Keelan's characters is snorting coke as she loses a shadowy lover. Set to the wails of Thom Yorke it lingers in the memory. Maybe though this piece is better off in a lighter key. What it does is that rare thing: it shows us how funny splits can be, for all their agony and does it with a kind of lighthearted grace. Go down to the Bush I say, go and laugh your heart out.

Who knows?

As the curtain comes down it may be cautiously ticking.