Laura Wade’s ‘Colder Than Here’ is a portrait of a grieving family. Diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, Moira fills the time she has left with planning her funeral. Her family, meanwhile, unable to imagine life without her, try to decide whether to begin grieving or find the lighter side of the situation.
Wade lingers on the physicality of death – the slow spread of cancer and decomposition; the difficulty in movement and the plain boredom of waiting to die. Surprisingly, however, her focus is far from maudlin. The play is full of comic moments like Moira finally mastering Powerpoint to present her funeral plans, and the surreal experience of watching television with a cardboard coffin in the room…
Frances Brennand-Roper shines as the younger sister placed in charge of the burial site committee, displaying excellent comedic timing, particularly with her father. As ever, Alasdair Blackwell plays the somewhat befuddled middle-aged man who deals with his wife’s illness by fixating on the broken boiler, able to combine comedy and pathos in a single gesture. His natural reserve and inability to support his wife’s preparations is a contrasted poignantly to his daughters’ desperate attempts to remain busy by following their mother’s wishes.
Characters in this play fixate on heat; the constant references to the boiler; the father who hates hearing “Is it just me or is it cold in here?”; the layer upon layer every character wears towards the end. It seems that Moira won’t allow herself to die until her house is warm again; although that may sound saccharine, the process by which the remaining family members begin talking to each other as adults is realistically awkward, and we are given no big family hug nor shallow resolution at the end.
At times deeply uncomfortable and at others deliciously entertaining, ‘Colder Than Here’ is a wonderfully moving portrayal of the time between diagnosis and death, showing that even when confronted with the worst, life finds a way to go on.