One Last Thing

Mon 5th – Sun 18th August 2013

reviews

Eliza Plowden

at 17:01 on 10th Aug 2013

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‘One Last Thing’, a heart-breaking play written by award-winning poet, Vanessa Kisuule, bills itself as “an anthology of words you wish you’d said”. In lyrical poetry, Whispers&Shouts shows us snapshots of various lives, from a little girl saying goodbye to her imaginary friends, to an accidental murderer.

The stories are incredibly realistic. In the opening scene, Abby (Gisele Payvandi), makes small talk with her husband over spaghetti, silently yearning to escape from her abusive marriage. The play shifts unexpectedly with each new story, taking us through a whirlwind of emotions: ‘One Last Thing’ is funny at times, and particular credit goes to Maureen Lennon for her amusing performance as Hannah, although the characters’ mistakes and memories lurk beneath the surface throughout. For example, Hannah, a bubbly teen, keeps us entertained with her love of laughing gas before confessing a terrifying secret. Although this combination is effective, the show is best in its moments of raw emotion; Kisuule’s poetry expresses the sadness, disappointment and joy that we are unable to articulate ourselves.

As both writer and director, Kisuule allows the performance to take precedence over the poetry, which resurfaces in poignant monologues to tear-jerking effect. When Abby is left alone on stage, she reminisces about the “pink promises of puberty”, until her speech becomes angry and alliterative, and we learn of her plan to leave her husband. Along with the lyrical script, the choreography and direction of ‘One Last Thing’ are impressive. Each scenario is different: the opening scene relies entirely on the actors' speech and expression, whilst the cast performs well-choreographed physical theatre as the ’12 Reasons Ensemble’ towards the end of the play. Additionally, the staging and props are pared-down and simple, leaving the actors to bring the poetry to life with their voices alone. This is enhanced by the intimacy of the venue; you can almost reach out and touch Kisuule’s words as they hover in the air.

The cast is engaging, simultaneously conveying the beauty of the poetry and bringing a tear to your eye with their heartfelt performances. This is particularly impressive considering the range of roles required; Ollie Feather plays both a sensitive teenage boy and a macho street cleaner, whilst Imogen Comrie effortlessly carries off two demanding performances, first as a little girl saying goodbye to her imaginary friends and then as a twisted teen about to commit suicide.

Kisuule’s poetry is sincere and evocative, and is undeniably at the root of the show’s success. An incredible achievement from Whispers&Shouts, ‘One Last Thing’ fully deserves to be given five stars.

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Anjali Joseph

at 02:34 on 11th Aug 2013

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Vanessa Kisuule's 'One Last Thing' is incredibly well-written, fusing spoken word poetry with drama to create a very funny, very touching micro-study of the human condition. Consisting of a series of unrelated episodes, including an abused housewife plotting her escape, three street cleaners wiping the streets of Bristol clean of the guilt and shame of the previous evening and a genuinely heartbreaking scene in which a little girl says farewell to her imaginary friends forever. 

Kisuule's observations are sassy and articulate, romantic and yet utterly grounded in reality. With the possible exception of one of her creations, Hannah, her characters are multidimensional and well-rounded. Hannah rather gratingly reminded me of Tigger: all loud noises, bounce and impossibly fast dialogue. Her naiveté and vulnerability are hardly revelations and, indeed, her compensatory behaviour is a little clichéd. Moreover, in the episode with her and Derrick, the accidental murder felt irrelevant to the development of the plot. This was the weaker link in an otherwise strong chain of individual scenes; the integration of poetry and drama jarred in a way that it had not in other episodes. 

However, there were moments of sheer beauty which counterbalanced these issues. The scene in which the Little Girl (Imogen Comrie) says goodbye to her imaginary friends was sweet and inescapably tragic. As an ensemble, the cast had wonderful chemistry, one of the show's highlights being the quasi-Shakespearian trio of street cleaners. Adult actors playing children is often creepy, and it is a testament to this cast that they managed to pull this off. Ollie Feathers in particular was excellent both in the street cleaner role and as Derrick, his subtle performance providing a more naturalistic counterpoint to Hannah. 

Gisele Payvandi was superb in the role of the wife, her inflections and wry delivery adding a level of humanity and likability to her vulnerable character. The cast of the childhood scene (Comrie, Jacob Fredrickson, Tom Grant and Bryher Flanders) were adorable as the gambolling, constant-motion children. Alice Kirk in the role of narrator had an air of complicity with the children that never bordered on patronising, enabling the audience to view the child's play from a more egalitarian footing. 

A wonderful production with much to recommend it, 'One Last Thing' is a beautifully crafted piece which seamlessly combines the mundane tragedies of daily life with observational humour and dry wit. 

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