Theatre Review: After The End – Vile Bodies, The Lyric Theatre
February 3, 2018 Laura Caldwell 0 Comments
It’s a Friday night and Belfast’s Lyric Theatre is absolutely buzzing with people. The bell goes for the main theatre and the crowd thins a little, but it turns out that the crowd that is left, are here for Vile Bodies’ latest production, After The End which is showing in the more intimate Naughton Studio.
There are signs everywhere letting us know that there will be no admittance for latecomers, no re-admittance for those who leave the studio and even some full frontal nudity, so from the looks of things we are in for one hell of a show. As the crowds file into their seats, Maria Guiver who plays Louise is dancing furiously on a table in the middle of a modest set which looks like an underground bunker. Simply, sturdy and small, the set is the perfect amount of claustrophobic, whilst still giving the actors space to move around. As we all get seated, four or five songs pass, and Guiver keeps dancing, showing some seriously impressive stamina which just adds to the uneasy feeling which is building with every beat of the music.
The lights go down, the music cuts and all frivolity disappears as we get to grips with the hellish scene we have stumbled upon. Written in 2005, After The End is the story of Louise and Mark, two colleagues who are sheltering from the fallout of a nuclear bomb after a night out, in the bunker that Mark, played by Paul Livingstone luckily has in his garden. Particularly poignant in the uncertain times we live in, Dennis Kelly’s play takes you on a real emotional journey, and it’s one that most of us aren’t prepared for.
As the play progresses we see the struggle that these two characters go through as they fight to gain dominance over one another, and ultimately, to survive. Uncertainty and uneasiness are the order of the day as we try to work out just what type of power struggle we are dealing with, and Guiver and Livingstone are extremely believable as both the victim and the aggressor, two roles which they see-saw between.
The actors do a good job of working around their stuttering staccato lines throughout the play, but personally I find that the delivery makes it difficult to follow the first portion of the performance. 105 minutes without an interval is also a very long time to sit still and by the end, I can’t wait to get out of that bunker either; although, maybe that’s the point.
Directed by Belfast director Emily Foran, there’s no covering up the raw emotion shown on stage by both Maria Guivar and Paul Livingstone, and the young director definitely doesn’t shy away from making this as realistic a portrayal as possible. Through the shocking glimpses of nudity, the rawness and realness of the fight scenes and one of the most realistic strangling scenes I’ve ever seen on stage or screen, there is just the right amount of earthiness to this performance to stop you feeling too attached to either character.
One of those rare performances that you think about days, or perhaps, weeks after it’s over, Vile Bodies’ After The End is a psychological thriller not to be missed.
After three nights at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, After The End will be at Dublin’s The New Theatre from 6th – 24th February, for more information or to book tickets, click here.