The Lowry, Salford 11 May 2017 to 12 May 2017
The concept of ‘The Everyman’ gets a new twist in Life By The Throat. A tale of brutalised and baffled masculinity is written and performed by a woman - Eve Steele.
Life By The Throat details the life of James Joseph Patrick Keogh from birth, through physical and sexual childhood abuse, the occasional glimmer of hope as an athlete, descent into theft and drug, alcohol and spousal abuse and finally, death.
Although the title suggests a positive appetite for life, Eve Steele tells of a life lived in loud desperation. It is apparent in the speech patterns she uses for the character: words are bitten off brutally short, giving an indication of Keogh’s frightening, barely controlled, aggression. Steele avoids expressing judgement, preferring to let Keogh learn by his own mistakes, and the result is a perfectly paced display of the stages by which he makes his incremental descent into hell.
Steele only articulates the sexual abuse that Keogh suffered late in the play, but the skilful script makes its effects apparent in his sudden mood swings and acts of self destruction – including casually throwing away a prized medallion. Keogh is defined by his limitations – he is capable of great passion but cannot see beyond immediate gratification by theft, drugs and alcohol.
Steele bravely allows Keogh to damn himself. He glories in his excesses and revels in his petty victories. The gradual stumble towards self-awareness and possible redemption is achieved with subtlety and is all the more convincing as a result.
Director Ed Jones suggests that Keogh has been unconsciously running from his demons all his life. Although Steele spends most of the play immobile centre stage, everything about her suggests movement. There is a restless jittery energy about Steele even when standing still. As Steele describes events in Keogh’s life she strides briskly around the stage – always returning to the point where she started. Excellent use is made of glorious Reggae and awful House music to illustrate Keogh’s pointless rush for gratification.
Although there might be little we have not already seen in the story of James Joseph Patrick Keogh, the raw authenticity of the presentation makes Life By The Throat a powerful experience.
Reviewer: David Cunningham