Arcola Theatre presents NOW THIS IS NOT THE END by Rose Lewenstein: Theatre Review

It’s a coveted thing; wanting to find yourself reflected in a work of art – to see, hear, feel something that calls out to you from the page, stage or canvas. But Now This Is Not The End, a new play by Rose Lewenstein, is one of those rare gems capable of establishing such a connection.

The play joins Eva (Brigit Forsyth) as she prepares to move into a care home with her husband, Arnold (Bernard Lloyd). A Holocaust refugee, Eva fled her home in Berlin during the War and can now only look on fondly as her granddaughter Rosie (Jasmine Blackborow) prepares to make the same city her hiemat six decades later. It’s soon revealed that Eva is in the early grasp of dementia and, in a bid to preserve her mother’s precious legacy, daughter Susan (Wendy Nottingham) desperately searches for a cassette tape of an interview they shared together when her mother could still rely on her memory. Frantically driven by two fierce loves, Susan and Rosie come to blows in pursuit of their respective wishes. 

The change in Eva from the beginning of the play to the end is deeply moving and instantly recognisable to me; Brigit Forsyth really captures the cruelty of memory loss and how it gradually chips away at a person’s liberty and personality. Wendy Nottingham’s Susan is the ultimate Everymother; the worrisome, caring glue which holds a family together and Jasmine Blackborow is wonderful as the adventurous, passionate Rosie. I especially loved her scenes with Daniel Donskoy, who plays her German boyfriend. Each woman has such an investable story that I wanted to know even more about them; there is so much depth and potential to them that 70 minutes of stage-time doesn’t quite seem like enough.

I’ve discovered that most of my favourite plays tend to follow a formula involving the same four elements: a fascinating family tree, the theme of memory, countries which aren’t my own and non-linear narratives. Andrew Bovell’s When The Rain Stops Falling, Tena Stivcic’s 3 Winters and Now This Is Not The End all share very similar themes; with the most intriguing being the past’s ability to devour the future. I saw my own past flash before my eyes as the play unravelled; blurring memories of my own experiences of Berlin with grandparents lost to the wickedness of dementia.  

Now This Is Not The End is a beautifully rendered, heartfelt play about home, family and remembrance. I don’t think it’s just coincidence that one of the play’s central characters (almost) shares her name with the author. You can feel in the writing and in the drawing of the characters that this play is a tiny piece of Lewenstein’s soul. It is a play to be proud of, excellently realised by Katie Lewis’s gentle and intelligent production. Managing a non-linear narrative on a stage so bare is no easy feat, but it is pulled off brilliantly and the simplicity of Holly Pigott’s set only adds to the play’s discreet power.

© Hannah Roe, 2015

 

NOW THIS IS NOT THE END by Rose Lewenstein

24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL

Closes 27th June

Monday - Saturday evenings at 8pm

£17 / £12 concessions

Saturday matinees at 3:30pm
13 June - £14 / £12 concessions
20 June, 27 June - £17 / £12 concessions

https://www.arcolatheatre.com/production/arcola/now-this-is-not-the-end

Director - Katie Lewis

Producer - Rebecca Targett

Designer - Holly Pigott

Composer/Sound Designer - Dan Jeffries

Lighting Designer - Prema Mehta

Design Assistant – Anna Kezia Williams

Cast - Brigit Forsyth, Jasmine Blackborow, Daniel Donskoy, Wendy Nottingham, Andrew Whipp, Bernard Lloyd

 

Author's review: 
4