Review: LIFE WITH OSCAR, Arcola Theatre

One person shows are no mean feat...

By: Apr. 04, 2024
Review: LIFE WITH OSCAR, Arcola Theatre
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Review: LIFE WITH OSCAR, Arcola Theatre

Life With Oscar is an autobiographical monologue written, and performed by Nicholas Cohen that takes the audience on a trip to the darker side of La La Land via Cohen's immigrant parent childhood. It is a personal, and at times physical, theatrical exploration of a man's professional journey to date.

One person shows are no mean feat, and anyone who attempts them deserves respect for even going there. Though Cohen's work includes 29 different characters along the storytelling way, which, if honest, aren't always individually detectable via their accent, as the executions somewhat blend in the heat of the moment.

The personal narrative isn't groundbreaking; being that of a creative who doesn't quite make it, which (understandably) feeling unjust, sees the artist stick to their guns even more. This consequently means Cohen doesn't triumph victoriously in his American Dream attempt. Sad times. But also an unoriginal one.

He takes us on his journey of being misunderstood, and trying to find some semblance of normality and ethics in LA, which predictably he doesn't locate. Many of the characters he meets along the way feel awkwardly formulaic: the local phony, aggressive producer, perverse money man, Hollywood networker…so I was left wondering: what are we actually doing here?

Of course personal baggage and stories have value, and one assumes Cohen recognises his inherent moral code, even if it meant he didn't become a warped, successful cog in the Hollywood machine. However, he is performing at the Arcola, after a successful run at Edinburgh, so things obviously aren't all bad!

Cohen is described as an Actor/Filmmaker, and has made numerous films in his career thus far (Voodoo Lagoon being perhaps the most infamous?), and as an actor he has presence, energy and commitment, but I didn't register subtlety or sense emotional resonance.

People go to the theatre for many different reasons, and Life With Oscar potentially satisfies some of them. Cohen is a dynamic performer, and holds the space with apparent ease, but the work doesn't communicate anything profound or sensitive in its current format. Perhaps it's time for another trip stateside, to experience and contemplate Los Angeles once more.

Life with Oscar runs at the Arcola Theatre until 20 April

Photo credit: E. Castagno.


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