AT THE END OF EVERYTHING ELSE
by Mark Arends.
Unicorn Theatre (Clore auditorium) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 19 April 2014.
Runs 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 April.
Pedal-powerful exposure of a plastic world puts young people in the driving-seat.
There’s often talk of theatre transporting audiences to strange worlds. Mark Arends’ piece for 8+ does so in some unusual ways. Entering the auditorium in small groups we find our way to seats by torchlight. All is dark apart from a low-level semi-circle, lit bright green around the stage-floor. And there’s already a whirr of bicycle wheels at the stage edges.
Silent action begins on a screen, while a voice tells the daily life of young Ick, living with her father. The routine of cycling to school and home through varying urban landscapes is coloured only by a recurring dream in which her dead mother calls for rescue from an island.
The pedalling continues. Necessarily; it creates the electricity for projections and other lighting. The projectors and cut-outs creating John Horobin’s detailed and ingenious screen images are made apparent in the opening credits and remain an alternative for viewing alongside the final images.
Ick pedals past various urban landscapes. But she finds a new track for her life when she discovers an injured bird. Naming the creature Tito, she takes it home until it’s recovered. For days after Tito’s released, the creature comes back to Ick’s window-ledge. Then one day doesn’t.
So off she pedals, on a machine grown wings, searching for Tito until she comes to an island where many birds are trapped amid the pointed, sticky detritus of human society. Rescuing Tito, with audience assistance, Ick is freed of her dream. The best memorial for the dead is to make life more worth living.
Saving a single creature becomes a matter of preserving earth’s natural ecology in a world where, the programme informs, two garbage heaps lie in the Pacific, one twice the size of Texas. Broken-down plastics suffocate fish and foul-up their food.
Such news is necessary but unpleasant medicine; the ingenuity of the presentation, backed-up by the low-tech intensity of its presentation – someone has to keep pedalling to keep the lights on for the curtain-call – provides a fascinating theatrical sweetener holding attention as the calmly-told story develops and writer/director/composer Mark Arends’ serious matter gradually appears.
Performers: Amrita Acharia, Avye Leventis, Tim Lewis, Ben Whybrow.
Director/Composer: Mark Arends.
Designer/Lighting: Declan Randall.
Animations: John Horobin.