Following on from last autumn’s There’s No Place Like, Althea Theatre return with their latest play One Last Thing (For Now), running at the Old Red Lion Theatre. It was written by director Lilac Yosiphon in combination with the ensemble, taking inspiration from love letters written during times of conflict in a range of settings and times – from Russia to Vietnam, the 20th to the 21st century.
As such, it doesn’t tell one specific story but several all around the same theme. This does mean that initially there’s quite a bit to get your head around, as you perhaps try to work out which conflict they’ve been affected by and who’s who in each story, but once we return to each plot things quickly start to make sense. Despite the lack of costume changes, it is always clear when it has moved onto a different plot – all the while flowing smoothly and lyrically as a single piece. All of the stories are powerful in their own way, but for me the standouts are Rob and Rosie’s Skype sessions during the war in Afghanistan, and Bill and Lily’s interactions as he fights in Vietnam.
One of the interesting things about Althea Theatre is their multicultural make-up; this factor is even incorporated into the show to highlight the wider effect of conflict on the world, most notably for Veronica fleeing Colombia with her children when her husband Simon went missing. The exact words aren’t always important, it’s the emotion behind them – and Veronica’s distress is clear for all to see.
There is an (unadvertised) interval about halfway through; from the audience’s point of view it is completely unnecessary, especially as the second half begins with the final moments of the first. The overall power of the piece would be amplified with it running straight through at around 100 minutes.
Elliott Squire’s set is simply designed, with scattered letters across the walls – almost as if the postbags had exploded on their way to or from the front. This background provides a reminder of the inspiration behind the play in a basic, yet powerful, way.
The ensemble works together with great efficacy: sometimes almost as a single organism and sometimes with one or two taking the lead, but always completely supportive of each other. This is partly a credit to Yosiphon’s direction, with some wonderfully creative moments across the whole piece – including a section that sees a parted couple reading their letters in a daze, who slowly come together to dance at the centre of the circle.
Every single member of the cast gives an engaging and convincing performance, transporting the audience into their war-torn world – some even with musical instruments to provide occasional accompaniment.
My verdict? A creative and emotive look at the effect of war on the people caught up in it – engaging performances and a powerful message.
One Last Thing (For Now) runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 25 March 2017. Tickets are available online or from the box office.