Susan Murray: How Not to Die in a Plane Crash - Review – ★★★½

Susan Murray: How Not to Die in a Plane Crash – Review – ★★★½

Balancing extremely dark subject matter with moments of hilarity, Susan Murray has a near-hit on her hands.

Susan Murray: How Not to Die in a Plane Crash | Soho Theatre | 2 August 2021

Susan Murray is obsessed with Air Crash Investigation, the Canadian TV series which explores the circumstances of often fatal air crashes. She is also a nervous flyer. So, what better subject for a 75 minute comedy routine than the art of surviving a messy, flaming, gravity-assisted death.

Susan Murray by Paul Tucker
Susan Murray by Paul Tucker

There’s definitely plenty of material ripe for the picking, dark fruit though it may be. Murray strikes the rich seam of humour most successfully when she pokes fun at the documentary series’ that reconstruct disasters, or the fears that so many of us share. Right on the edge, but perhaps most rewardingly, are the tales of hapless pilots and the intellect-diminishing effects of sudden hypoxia on even the brightest of problem-solvers.

Less funny – and this is a problem in a comedy show – are the fatality figures, or brave but ultimately futile attempts to save lives. It’s hard to enjoy laughing at some of this stuff, though it is to Murray’s credit that she never lets things feel exploitative or disrespectful. It’s just tough stuff to make light of.

There’s a really funny 40 minutes or so here – though not to everyone’s taste – but spread over 75 minutes there are just too many opportunities for the pace to slacken and the audience to wonder whether they might need a session of hypnotherapy before their next flight. With some judicious cutting, though, it’s not hard to imagine audiences of a strong disposition lapping up this ultimately good-natured romp through the do’s and don’ts of air-crash survival!