Thursday, August 11, 2011

"After the End" - Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Dennis Kelly's "After the End" is perfectly suited to the Fringe. While many shows struggle to overcome the restrictions of their performance space, it doesn't require much of a leap of the imagination to turn a Fringe venue into a dark, underground, claustrophobic nuclear shelter. In fact, should the 'Bomb' go up on a day I'm in Edinburgh, I've mentally filed the nearby 'Pleasance Underneath' as the place to head for.

That's the situation facing Louise as she wakes to find herself in the fall-out shelter Mark has brought her to after a nuclear explosion that took place during her work leaving do. It was lucky for Louise that Mark's flat had this relic from the cold war - and that he'd kept it stocked up. All they have to do is wait two weeks for the fall-out to pass before emerging from the shelter to the devastation Mark has told her about. That shouldn't be too hard - after all, they like each other. But control freak Mark doesn't think Louise appreciates what he's done for her. And Louise doesn't like being told what to do. Two weeks is suddenly a very long time.

Tony McGeever and Helen Darbyshire give impressive performances that develop as each character lurches between moments of power and vulnerability. Kelly's writing feels like it wants to use the individuals to make a wider statement about society - contrasting the paranoid, untrusting Mark who feels undervalued by his peers, with the open and popular Louise. It doesn't quite work for me, largely because I think it leads to Kelly making the wrong choices for the play. His decision as to which character's position is vindicated misses the opportunity to really ask uncomfortable questions of its audience. The play also doesn't know when to end - the long walk back from the 'Pleasance Baby Grand' affords the opportunity to listen in on audience reactions, and there were a lot of comments that the show didn't benefit from its final scene.

Dundee Rep's show works fantastically well as a character study, and builds the tension well. Just don't spend too much time analysing it afterwards, or the fairly significant plot hole will start to irritate.

After the End runs at the Pleasance Courtyard until 28th August
Image by Douglas Robertson used with permission