Half-life: Julian Mitchell

This somewhat comical play has a serious undertone: that of a search for meaning and purpose in a life that is drawing to a close. Our academic protagonist realises, after his life’s work is proved false, that he does not know who he is. Inviting significant people from his life’s story to a party at his grand house at the equinox, Sir Noel Cunliffe tries to regain the life that seemed secondary to his work in order to discover himself: not the Oxford don, nor the academic, but the man. Though at first reluctant and anxious, Cunliffe’s guests inevitably provide an illuminating narrative, but one that he would perhaps rather not know. Interestingly, whether by Cunliffe’s design (a somewhat sadist and perhaps punishing inclination) or by default, the characters that help to tell the story of the man are not all enamoured with the character: each seems to have their own cross to bear. An enjoyable read, if only for the numerous arguments!

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