27 June 2015

Now This Is Not The End at the Arcola Theatre

I do not need much of an excuse to go to the Arcola Theatre but this time I conjured something of one. My eldest son was flat hunting in Hackney and we decided to spend a day exploring the area to try and learn something of its character and also to look at some specific properties along the way.

The flat hunting was mixed though we did end up putting an offer in on a flat in Clapton, almost opposite the station, but we were outbid on that and did not think it worth raising our offer.

Going to the Arcola theatre in the evening was always part of the plan. We had intended to eat there too but our plans had drifted somewhat and we had had our lunch just after 4pm so were not that hungry at 7pm.

Still, the bar and cafe area at the Arcola was a good place to relax after a day's walking, and they also did cake.

There were two plays on that night at the Arcola and I had chosen Now This Is Not The End because it sounded the most interesting. It's description said, "Six decades ago, Eva lived in Berlin. She remembers her house on Essener Straße. It used to have a blue door. Now her granddaughter Rosie is making the city her home. But just as she begins to plan for her future, Eva's oncoming dementia causes Rosie to question her family's past." It sounded just a little bit unusual and I really like unusual.

Now This Is Not The End was downstairs in Studio 2 where the seating is unreserved but I know how the system works well enough by now and was able to secure my preferred location in the middle of the front row for which I had paid a miserly £17.

The scenario for the play was the relationship between granddaughter, Rosie, and grandmother, Eva, and their shared connection with Berlin. Rosie was keen to learn more about Eva's past, she had fled Nazi Germany, but Eva refused to talk about something and was forgetting others due to her dementia.

The memories could have been assisted by Eva's diaries but they had gone missing and, of course, she could not remember what had happened to them.

Moving was a theme of the play too. Rosie was looking to settle with her German boyfriend who she had met while studying in Berlin and that led to some animated discussions about choosing between Germany and the UK. Rosie had moved once from Germany to the UK and was now moving into a care home.

Places and relationships were also important themes that wove through the evening adding texture to an already interesting story. There was a consistent light tension throughout, e.g. as the strengths of relationships were tested, and that got me totally enmeshed in the happenings.

As always, I had done next to no research beforehand so it was a huge, and pleasant, surprise to see Brigit Forsyth play Eva. For my generation she will always be Thelma from the early 70's sitcom Likely Lads.

Now This Is Not The End was intelligent and emotional, just the sort of play that works well in a space as atmospheric as Arcola's Studio 2. It was a beautiful experience despite the brutal reality of dementia at the heart of the story.

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