The Last

Mon 8th – Sat 13th August 2016

reviews

Becky Wilson

at 09:20 on 13th Aug 2016

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On the brink of human extinction, the last nine humans on earth are holed up together. This situation evidently has great dramatic potential: what happens to human relationships when trapped in confinement, confronted so abruptly with their own mortality? Unfortunately, essentially every aspect of ‘The Last’ sabotages the potential for an intense, or even darkly humorous examination of the last dregs of mankind, and it is left severely wanting.

The root cause of this play’s problems lies, I think, with the script. In his attempts to convey realistic dialogue, Chris Hawkins has clogged the script with clichés and the sort of obvious, cringe-inducing slang which would not feel out of place in a cheesy 80s sitcom. Most unforgivable, however, are the painfully blatant moral messages which Hawkins has manoeuvred into his play. For instance, rather than conveying a society in which homophobia has been completely overcome, Hawkins’ characters say “It’s been fine to be gay for hundreds of years now”, and there are heavy-handed musings on human self-destructiveness rammed uncomfortably in between completely irrelevant parts of dialogue.

Partly a result of this the acting is, on the whole, extremely poor. Most cast members stiffly recite their emotional confessions as if reading aloud a lengthy shopping list. Paired with their wooden movements, this renders it impossible for the audience to feel even an ounce of sympathy. There are, however, a few redeemable performances. Frazer Gault, as Ivan, gets all the best lines, and delivers them with a biting, cynical wit. Likewise, in one heartfelt exchange between Myles (Alastair Whettell) and Spring (Nicole Harris), glimpses of potential in Hawkins’ script are brought into fruition: their subtle, melancholy delivery and tasteful pauses make this scene the quiet highlight of the play.

There is little structure to ‘The Last’, and deeply serious issues including sexual assault, homophobia and mental illness are vaguely toyed with in a superficial way. If confronting these issues, the play should deal with them properly, rather than using them as plot deviations which slow down the pace, and are quickly forgotten about. In fact, the play has barely any progression whatsoever: it strikes me as just a series of unconnected events punctuated by fade-outs and the occasional musical interlude.

The final scene is, judging from the quick succession of murders, intended to be somewhat dramatic. We are certainly given no indication of this: confronted with a room of dead bodies and their own close proximity to death, the remaining actors show no change in their facial expressions, and do not sound even remotely surprised. Even basic necessities, like props, and tension-building music, are neglected, signposting (if you hadn’t noticed already) that this play is explicitly, painfully, amateur.

With so many flaws impossible to overlook, ‘The Last’ will leave audiences frustrated and unsatisfied. I certainly would not recommend it.

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Caragh Aylett

at 13:12 on 13th Aug 2016

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‘The Last’ is post-apocalyptic drama that portrays the story of the last nine people on Earth. The characters battle with ideas of grief, love and what community is. It considers what the last events on Earth could be.

The young cast struggle to portray the emotion and brutality of such a horrendous state of affairs. The murder of many in the sanctuary base, by one of their own, is not given the response that it deserves and neither is it carried out convincingly. The cast seem entirely un-phased by the event and any begging for their own lives is feeble and unconvincing, perhaps this is to reflect a darker idea that they no longer have any motivation to live but if this is so, then it certainly does not come across effectively. The hallucinations of her dead sister, that cause Spring (Nicole Harris) to commit the murder, are not convincing and her motivation for murder is entirely unrealistic. Equally, the act of murder is weak and the slumped bodies that litter the stage are humorous rather than hard-hitting.

'The Last' certainly encapsulates some interesting ideas. It considers what society really is, and the enforcement of law and order in the end of days; this is portrayed through the character of Marianne (Kaia Nisbet). To her credit, Nisbet successfully brings out the anger and frustration of the character but she is weakened by the characters ill-founded decisions and enforcement of law.

The play also incorporates ideas of pro-creation and relationships in a post-apocalyptic world. Hugo (Kenny Said) engages Elise (Adrienne Solon) in an abusive relationship riddled with blackmail. However, Said’s character is presented as slightly two dimensional – he is solely interested in sex. Hugo must then battle with his friends recently exposed homosexuality which he does so by entirely rejecting their friendship. While Said’s character is awkward and unconvincing, Alastair Whettell’s portrayal of young man confused by his sexuality is subtle and successful.

Perhaps the piece is weakened by its decision to try to fit in every possibility of what could happen when there are only nine people left on Earth. It certainly could have been stronger had it chosen one or two of these themes and really unpacked their significance and the effect that they would have on the community. Instead, the audience is lurched between five or six different key themes with the inability to really consider any at length.

'The Last' really does have moments of strength but these are few and far between. The narrative holds moments of inspiration but for the most part it is clumsy and awkward, with a little more work this piece could fulfil all of its intentions but for the moment, it fails to deliver.

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