At Last is a clever, well-written and emotionally outstanding production. In a pre-Brexit world, this imagined dystopia is a timely, scary and thought-provoking production which serves as a retrospective review of a world gone wrong and how difficult it can be to try to pick up the pieces afterwards.
An all-consuming and controlling government has finally fallen after ten years in charge, ten years of curfews, ID badges, food shortages, and people going missing at an alarming rate. It flits between then and now to expose the truth of what happened from a myriad of storytellers – the lively, cheerful activist and contraband smuggler; the government office worker who lost a lover; the judge bestowing harsh punishments; the family devastated by their vastly different experiences under this regime; all are intertwined by a narrator who pulls the truth from the darkness.
It’s a bare-bones, minimalist set, the only notable scene-setter an impactful wall of missing posters to remind us that people disappeared left, right and centre during this dark political period. The cast wear regular clothes, with slight adjustments to fill in different portions of the timeline. There’s clever use of black hoodies to signify some changes in the narrative and the minimizing of the individual, while a prison jumpsuit is neatly rotated between two characters as the power balance shifts.
There’s an incredible amount of emotional depth, particularly as we look at the broken family dynamics; a fantastic Demelza O’Sullivan as Marie, mother to sons Jack (Michael Faulkner) and Danny (David Angland) trying to work through the damage caused by one son wielding brutal power, while the other is imprisoned by it. It’s tremendously emotive and incredibly well scripted.
It’s made even more enjoyable by the superb quality of an outstanding cast. It’s impossible to identify a singular standout performer when every single one delivers a powerful and flawless performance that is worthy of being seen in its own right. The emotion conveyed is stunning – the rage, the helplessness and hopelessness, the belief in one’s convictions, both wrong and right, it all swirls together to produce this really excellent show.
It can be a bit noisy, especially for anyone a little anxious and jumpy (in particular, this reviewer). There are moments with a lot of shouting – but this is supposed to make you feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable as you empathise with the cast and experience this aggression together. It can also be a little difficult to keep abreast of the timeline as we move through the narrative. Dates and times flashed on the back-wall help, but sometimes we’re moving forward and sometimes we’re moving backwards and it isn’t always obvious where we are at any given moment of time – but it doesn’t take anything away from a stunning piece.
Seek this out, find it, watch it, and don’t stop thinking about it. In a world that could teeter towards tragedy, this is an insightful warning about the human cost of politics. Don’t forget it.
Written by: James Lewis and Alexander Knott
Directed by: David Brady and Jess Barton
Produced by: Proforca Theatre Company
Booking Until: 22 September 2019
Booking Link: https://www.thelionandunicorntheatre.com/whats-on#/event/at-last