A Matter of Life and death is currently on at the National and is an adaptation of the Powell and Pressburger film of the same name. The play is done in association with Kneehigh Theatre
and as a result is a blend of music, physical theatre and circus style aerobatics. It is a story of a2nd workd war pilot who falls in love with a young, attractive radio operator called June, just before he falls to his death. The dead man who is due to 'collect' him and take him 'upstairs' fails to do so and he lives, only to meet and fall in love agian with June. The conundrum then is whether he should die as he was supposed to or be spared to pursue true love. The play ends with a trial to decide his fate. It is generally exciting and innovative, using an impressive team of actors to sing, dance, dangle from harnesses, ride bicycles round the stage and literally play with fire. None of this is done simply for effect and the atmosphere created is one of a distorted tiem and shifting reality. The only off note is sounded by the decision to use the end trial to give a stream of polemic about the random and awful nature of war, and the idiocy of being spared simply for love. The women of Dresden appear to plead their case as they have also lost loved ones, an addition for a modern audience who presumably can now consider the position of the bombed German citizens , which may have been unthinkable in 1946 when the film was made. However, this rams a point home too forcibly and unnecessarily, sounding clumsy when the rest of the production is so spot on.