The Albany, London – until 15 March 2017
They enter in high spirits, partying through life to their wheelchairs. As the music fades, only the remnants of the celebration remain, the leftovers of two lives as they reflect in their twilight years. Both He (Peter McVea) and She (Bridget Wood) have limited memories to cling back to as they debate the choices they made in life – ultimately are memories more important than the life lived itself? The whole performance has a farcical nature to it that juxtaposes the serious conversations had between the married couple. But in the end the concept is too superficial, lacking depth or meaning, which simply results in a disjointed, inconceivable hour of theatre that lacks in a journey, or a direction.
Fernanda Mandagará directs Paulo Santoro’s The End Of All Miracles as part of the Stomping Ground Festival, a Young Director’s training programme set up by StoneCrabs Theatre Company. Santoro’s script on the face of it can be conceived as a serious piece of theatre – discussions about the loss of a newborn; the desire to experience passion and sex one last time even is He (McVea) has to pay for it; the concepts of infidelity and whether they hold sway when staring down death’s door. But the outlandish visuals, the break-outs into a drug-like haze or flights of fantasy, all simply serve to overstretch both the play and the actors, taking all involved through a grandiose, self-justifying journey that lacks purpose.
Mandagará prioritises concept over execution here – this a show in which every outlandish idea is crammed in with the hope that it creates a beautiful overarching picture. But the concepts only serve to detract from the story, the discussion and the narrative. The play quickly turns in on itself, it becomes a show framed by the next over the top device, be it a cheap light effect or a sensual dance, with the dialogue simply acting as filler to buy time until the next thrill. The Dancer (Alexandra Dias) adds no purpose other than to move props around the stage and cheapen the production with faux farce and attempts for canned laughter. But when discussion turns to a lost child, or the dishonouring or a marriage by hiring a prostitute in his twilight years, there is no impact. The audience doesn’t empathise with the characters because they are simply there to lend weight to the next conceptual prop that comes along.
The End Of All Miracles has a clear vision that is poorly executed. But also, unfortunately, in this case even the vision must be questioned when it detracts from the impetus of the text.