After the End
Daniel Clarke, Nick Pelomis, Hannah Norris @ The Bakehouse Theatre
2:00pm, Sat 21 Mar 2009
After the End seemed to have a fair bit of buzz about it, having been nominated for a Best Theatre award. There was certainly a fair few people coming into the Bakehouse this afternoon on the strength of that nomination, and the venue would’ve been maybe two-thirds full.
The first thing you notice in The Bakehouse is the set; columns of gleaming metal, ample perspex, and strip fluoro lighting lend a very clinical feel to proceedings, but it’s a bloody impressive setup for a Fringe theatrical production.
We’re then introduced to Mark and Louise, acquaintances who find themselves trapped in a nuclear shelter following an attack in London. The early scenes lay the groundwork for their interactions; He is the sensible one, trying to conserve their meagre supplies and taking a logical approach to their predicament, whereas She appears over-emotive and irrational. She handles Her distress by weeping quietly; He’s obviously attracted to her, and blessed by their situation, but she has no interest in him whatsoever.
This, of course, devolves their relationship into one of Power; Mark rapidly develops from hapless, to control-freak, to maniacal, assuming dictatorial control over their supplies and using them as reward or punishment for Louise’s behaviour. He eventually chains her up, and the inevitable rape scene leads to the complete destruction of civilities; a line is crossed. Tables eventually get turned, there are emotional breakdowns, and genuine discomfort is felt when genitals are threatened with a knife.
Performances are solid, and the direction on that luscious stage is great. But unfortunately, I suspected the (rather massive) story “twist” about ten minutes into the play… and I relished the anticipation of the reveal. But, when it came, I was utterly underwhelmed; the final scene, closing the circular exposition, was waaaaay too long. In fact, that charge could be leveled at the entire play – I reckon it could be trimmed back to a lean 45 minutes that would absolutely rock. Instead, we have a massive beast that lumbers along, occasionally sputtering some audience goodness.