The aesthetic of The End, the End, the End is similar to a video game. A grid is laid out in neon green lines on the stage floor, and the performers are first glimpsed in their costumes outside the theatre. They wear the mixture of anachronism and pastiche that could be found in any vision of the future where relics of our culture are salvaged in twisted and mismatched ways – eye-patches, multiple straps and tutus are all included. Whilst partly reminiscent of Mr Burns and Mad Max, the bright, individualistic styles and the performers arranged in a line give it the distinct feeling of a character selection menu at the beginning of a game.
The marketing and programme refer to the show as a ritual and that’s definitely what it feels like, with absurd and bizarre sections popping up as if the cast are entranced and compelled to remain trapped in their Chicago flat raising the spirits of politics, pop culture and mothers.
These rituals are successful to varying extents – both in their stated aim of turning America inside-out, and as an engaging performance. In general, they improve through the production, with stand-out sections involving a talking bear, a conversation with a band recited as a monologue, and a cast member apparently trapped in a television as two others narrate in Spanish. As well as this, intriguing and captivating motifs run through the piece. Speeches by different ‘Presidents of the USA’ (including Nixon and Bernie Sanders) are among the most successful moments of deconstruction created via a sense of playfulness.
Despite this, much of the piece felt like a song where the treble had been turned up almost painfully loud but everything else cut, stretching for intensity but resulting in a strange hollowness. Moments of genuine emotional distress mix with empty hysterics until it is difficult to be certain of what is what. Whether this is accidental or deliberate is hard to pinpoint. It feels like the company are trying to destroy something by amplifying it, creating a utopia from an Accelerationist nightmare. As they smash and re-mash, keeping up with the new world in all its absurdity becomes impossible. This could well be the point of the production, that the world we are living in is so extreme that any attempts to make it more so just seem silly and unable to live up to our unreal reality.
This is an imperfect show but one that I’m glad I saw. Even in its unsuccessful moments, the work is attempting to do something much more interesting than many ‘successful’ shows. Throughout I was continually waiting for what came next. The End, in fact, seems like it may only be the beginning – and it will be exciting to see what this company produce in the future.
The End, the End, the End… is on at Venue 13 until 26th August 2017. Click here for more details.