The assumption would be that things generally get a little quiet for entertainment around January time, but the reality is there’s plenty happening in the city already – including, in all seriousness, one of the best pieces of theatre you might be lucky enough to catch all year. I know we’re only a couple of weeks in and I’m not an idiot, at least not on this; stay with me.

The Art of Falling Apart has returned to the Unity Theatre, where it premiered exactly 12 months ago. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be able to catch it again. Brought to you by the extremely capable hands of city centre-based Big Wow, what it lacks in budget it makes up with awe-inspiring creativity.

Matt Rutter (the director of Young Everyman and Playhouse by day) plays Callum, an ordinary bloke suddenly plunged into a pending-midlife crisis of self-doubt and despair. The characters who in each turn cause the problems, add to them, enable and eventually try to save our protagonist all come via one man – the brilliant Tim Lynskey.

As required he becomes everything needed to push Callum along on his journey of discovery, from twattish colleague to nagging girlfriend, motivational speaker to unhinged drinking buddy. Sound a bit crazy? Their talent lies in making an audience suspend enough disbelief for it to work.

Usually better known for the comic shows they have presented over the years like Insomnobabble and The Friendship Experiment, The Art of Falling Apart may course somewhat uncharted territory as far as Big Wow are concerned by tackling a more emotional story than their usual, self-confessed ‘nobbing about’.

That’s not to say there aren’t big laughs to be had as Callum’s story unfolds, as there are plenty of those; but that they nail the poignancy of his confusion and worries perfectly as well.

The final piece in the Big Wow puzzle is one of the city’s leading and best-known playwrights, Robert Farquhar. For this show, his writing has arguably never been sharper, nor performed with such electrifying intuition and gusto. Rutter and Lynskey are a formidable team, with their timing and delivery unfaltering throughout the whole exhausting 90-minute performance.

This is never clearer than in the show’s group scene, a trademark of the company, where the two actors convincingly portray a frenetic party full of different characters, all interacting with each other at the same time. Big Wow now have this down to a seriously fine art, and it is almost worth going to see for that alone.

Les Mis can wait – for the price of a trip to the cinema The Art of Falling Apart will make you laugh and (probably) cry, and is an unforgettable work from a company at the peak of their powers. It runs at the Unity from Wednesdays to Saturdays until the end of the month.

The Art Of Falling Apart
Until Saturday 26 January
Unity Theatre

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