The Diary: Comedy coffin is a dead cert winner

Hannah Groombridge
Hannah Groombridge
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People love coffins, says Hannah Groombridge.

She should know. She’s spent the best part of the last month sitting in one in the middle of the street in one of Britain’s biggest cities. “It’s created a lot of attention,” she says from her casket today. “People have been climbing in and lying down. They’ve been asking lots of questions.”

Which was presumably the point.

Nether Edge lass Hannah runs her own theatre company, Beyond The Bridge Productions, and has been using the unusual item to advertise her first play - a comedy about life, death and other such jovial matter - showing at the Edinburgh Festival this month. She’s placed the pall on the Royal Mile each day, plonked herself in and handed out fliers. It’s worked too. The show - called Life Sentence and about a young man depressed at being diagnosed with immortality - has been playing to packed houses every night.

“Well, you need to do something a bit unusual to get people’s attention in Edinburgh,” explains the 21-year-old who has just graduated in history and politics from Oxford University, “This struck me as a good idea.”

It struck her, as it goes, after a family death.

“It’s a bit morbid,” says the former Sheffield High School pupil, “but my great aunt died at Christmas and, when we were talking to the funeral director (John Heath and Sons of Earsham Street, Burngreave), my father asked if they had such a thing as a theatrical coffin. They did and they have let us borrow this one for free.”

It’s what, no doubt, her great aunt would have wanted.

In the play itself, main character Theo becomes depressed after being told he will never die. He is annoyed he won’t get to experience such pleasures as final words or having a funeral.

It was written by stand-up comic friend Jamie Carragher and is the first show Hannah has put on. She is hoping it won’t be the last.

This is the final weekend at Edinburgh and after that? Who knows?

“It’s been great fun,” she says. “I set up Beyond The Bridge specifically for this play. But I’d love to push it further now I’ve finished uni. I might do a musical next year.”

Life Sentence runs until Saturday.

Sheffielders up in Scotland

Several Sheffielders have been attempting to make names for themselves at the Edinburgh Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival which run throughout August. And, while they haven’t all used coffins to make their mark, they are all certainly unique...

Funny You Should Ask - a company comprising eight members of Sheffield University Theatre Company - have been staging a play in which a woman attacks a man in a supermarket. But instead of him calling the police and then going home with his weekly shop, the pair end up finding they have a common dream. As you do.

Also from Sheffield Uni is new theatre company Paper Finch. They have been putting on versions of Beauty And The Beast and The Steadfast Tin Soldier.

The Antics, who are Hallam graduates, have been basing their shows on random story suggested by the audience which they then riff on to create 50 characters in 50 minutes. Every show has been different, they reckon.

Mike Bentley, Tom Burgess and Sam Nicoresti have been performing a sketch called, intriguingly perhaps, Bathtime With Tom’s Dad.