At The End Of Everything Else

Reviewed by Flossie Waite
A Make Mend and Do production

Reviewed at Greenwich Theatre as part of the Greenwich Children’s Theatre Festival
For ages 8+

There’s a whirr in the auditorium, a constant buzz coming out of the darkness. Two performers are cycling, continuously, to power the show. The never-ending hum forces audiences to consider the energy being used: you can’t take it for granted. The sound is an unavoidable reminder of the energy crackling around us all the time, created not by people but finite resources, and easily forgotten as it zips about, out of sight and out of mind. At The End of Everything Else lives by its environmentalist principles, and with them has devised a creatively daring show.

With just two plays to their name, company Make Mend and Do have created an approach and style that is immediately recognisable: conceptual, creatively open and resourceful, they offer a blend of animation, film, puppetry, and original music. At The End Of Everything Else feels drawn from the world of their previous piece, Something Very Far Away: their characters could be neighbours. Both deal with themes of loss and death, and involve a flight into the cosmos to find a loved one. But in this latest work, a little girl is looking for a tiny bird called Tito, rather than a husband searching for his wife, and she soars into the sky on a bicycle with wings rather than a rocket.

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Both productions feel technically ambitious but lovingly home-made. In At The End Of Everything Else, Icka’s story plays out on a projection screen, but the animations seem to be created from recycled material as she cycles along cardboard streets. With precision timing and movement, two performers expertly manoeuvre shadow puppets so that they interact with the animations and illustrations. The performers and their processes are directly illuminated by the projector, and attention is drawn equally to them and the screen. At The End Of Everything Else brings backstage action to the fore, creating a layered performance out of the energy used to produce it, the performers, puppets and technical wizadry needed to create it, and the actual story itself. Whilst fascinating, perhaps watching the doing and making creates a distancing barrier that prevents the audience engaging with the narrative. Or maybe it’s because the characters’ faces are mostly indistinct and un-animated – usually shadow puppets, sometimes a still image, and voiced by a hard-to-see narrator, cycling at the back of a gloomy stage. Whatever the reason, At The End Of Everything Else lacks the emotional impact that made Something Very Far Away so memorable.

When Icka finds her best friend Tito, he is trapped on a plastic island just like the Great Pacific garbage patch – as the world’s rubbish is dumped in the sea, currents collect it together into an almighty clump. She can’t rescue him alone, and now that the environmental message really kicks in: it’s possible for us to make a difference, as long as we work together. Here the audience are truly able to engage and get involved (maybe even invited on stage!), in a clever take on Peter Pan’s clapping hands to save Tinkerbell. Writer and director Mark Arends has created another generous work that never patronises it’s young audience.

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