IF AUSTRIAN paranoia-merchant Franz Kafka had instead been born a twinkly-eyed British playwright with a penchant for Monty Python, he might have produced something like 6FootStories’ two-man comedy-drama Soften the Grey, which played at Ventnor’s Studio Theatre yesterday (Thursday).
Jake Hassam and Nigel Munson, the writers and performers of the production, told the gently surreal tale of an unnamed diver who, having drowned, finds himself negotiating his way through a maddeningly bureaucratic afterlife.
Hassam and Munson hurtle through their protagonist’s life story – jumping through time, space and an extensive dramatise personae with only the help of the odd lighting change and some pin-sharp characterisations – finding laughs and a surprising amount of pathos along the way.
In fact, it’s a credit to the strength of the writing that, as time moves on and we tumble further down the metaphysical rabbit-hole, the more serious tone the play discovers in later scenes doesn’t feel like an unwelcome distraction from the earlier, funnier moments – just the narrative’s natural progression.
Over the course of its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it running time (just sixty minutes!), Soften the Grey poses a great many questions, about the narrative structures that inform the shape of our lives, about religion and its origins, about whether true self-knowledge is possible or even desirable – and, if it’s a little unclear exactly what they all add up to, it asks them in such a good-humoured and entertaining fashion that it’s hard to mind too much.