If you knew when the exact moment the world was going to end, what would you do? This is a question I was left pondering after Tuesday evening’s showing of “After the End,” a student performed, student written production shown in the Banham Theatre this week. Walking into the pitch-black theatre from a pleasantly sunny evening, I was unsure of what to expect, but any doubts I had were soon forgotten as we were thrown straight into the midst of an apocalypse waiting to happen.
The stage could have been mistaken for a student house in Hyde Park; clothes strewn over the floor, empty beer cans on the floor and stacks of tinned beans forming the setting of the play. Despite this crowded and almost claustrophobic surrounding, each character worked effectively with the space, and an overwhelming feeling of waiting made every choice of prop feel appropriate. It was soon made very clear that the undercurrent of the story was anticipation, waiting for an end that may never arrive.
Having two simultaneous plots running in conjunction with each other highlighted the tensions of the two different relationships, both strained from an unimaginable situation. Cottard and Harry, two friends from childhood, concentrate on looking back to the past with little hope for the future. Frances and Zelda, a steamy office fling, explore the limitations of spontaneity without fully knowing someone’s past. The constant blurring of the boundaries between the two parallel plots aided in the exploration of the topics raised throughout, and in tackling issues of regret, tragedy and love. The subtle mentions of Facebook and Come Dine With Me allowed the play to feel current and modern, bringing the threat of Armageddon to a contemporary audience.
It was interesting to watch the mentalities of all four characters unravel in front of you, as the anticipation for some form of apocalypse breeds. Each personality was delivered perfectly, with no shortage of anger, sadness or passion. Despite sounding like it has the risk of being too heavy, a clear sense of humour from writers Jonny Walfisz and James Grimshaw maintained the fast pace of the plot and kept the attention of the audience. The uncertain time scale makes the play confusing at times, but this ambiguity supports the unsettling subject of the play.
‘After the End’ deals with a selection of ordinary, real life problems in an extraordinary situation. The four characters were brought to life a fantastic script, showcasing the talent of Leeds University right here on campus.