Lifecoach sees comedian Phil Jupitus make his West End debut in Nick Reed’s play about finding peace of mind when you hadn’t realised you had lost it in the first place.
Successful business woman Fiona (Katarina Olsson) has inherited a useless PA, Wendy (Amy Darcy), with her new job. In desperation she passes her into the hands of life coach Colin (Phil Jupitus) to try and resolve Wendy’s inability to say no, which regularly results in triple booked meetings and a compulsive need to make tea. Colin takes on the case unaware of the life-changing impact she will have on his own dysfunctional life.
Jupitus’s comic roots are a perfect companion for the David Brent-esque Colin. Smooth talking and unnaturally calm, he is seemingly the picture of success and mental health, perfectly zen with a glass of wine and his classical Coldplay cd. A walking self help book, Colin spouts long memorised paragraphs from his forthcoming tome including obligatory Dr Phil buzz words – problems become ‘opportunities in disguise’ and desires must be shaped into ‘tangible goals’.
The arrival of nervous, people-pleaser Wendy, who herself feels her only problem to be her lack of Outlook skills, throws Colin out of kilter. At £200 an hour the life coach is more used to helping people make more money, rather than improving their mental wellbeing. Emotionally manipulated by her boyfriend and unable to keep a job, Wendy finds all Colin’s advice achieves is unemployment and relegation to the sofa when her now ex-boyfriend moves his new lover into their bed. When she finally begins to take control of her own life, Colin’s falls apart, no longer needed and unable to sort out his own lonely existence.
Set designer Jason Denvir has made the most of the small space available using the classic Ikea trick of hidden storage devices. Large white letters spelling out Colin’s mantra ‘BLT’ (believe in yourself, let go of your past, take responsibility for your future) open to reveal hidden cupboards filled with props used to create the illusion of different locations, including a white board that, over the course of the evening, becomes a schizophrenic list of Colin and Wendy’s beliefs.
Reed’s play treads the boards between tragedy and comedy as we see Wendy and Colin learn to accept themselves and forgive their pasts in order that they can begin a new life, perhaps even together. Oprah would be proud. Lifecoach runs at Trafalgar Studios 2 until 14 June.