After the End – review

The world has ended. But worry not, Venue was there to find out what exactly happened afterwards.

By Any Other Name Theatre Company gave their take on the post-apocalyptic play After the End. Director Rob Henderson described the Dennis Kelly play as “the only play that’s ever really scared me.

After the End sees Mark (Luke Rogan) rescue his work colleague Louise (Gemma Barnett) from the fallout of a nuclear explosion on the night of Louise’s leaving party, and bring her to an old bomb shelter in his garden.

The shelter in question is a disused basement room in UEA’s Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, that production manager Sarah Hiscox had transformed into the claustrophobic and minimal set.

Rogan and Barnett both gave impressive performances. Rogan takes his character to some truly uncomfortable depths, but still manages to resurface for darkly comic moments. So relentlessly intense was Rogan’s portrayal of Mark that it was all Venue could do to stop ourselves heaving open the door and yelling at Louise to run for it.

It would have been easy for Barnett to play Louise as just another victim, however through her steely performance she became the immovable object to Mark’s unstoppable force.

The play ran with no interval, with the pressure to building throughout, on stage as well as within the audience. A combination of intelligent directing and mature performances ensured that the play was never lagging, and that each emotional peak was built upon the last, culminating in scenes that proved to be so disturbing because of the emotional connection, between stage and audience, in such a cramped and contained setting.

The wider themes of the play suggest that After the End is a microcosm of societal norms in which the power of society has been removed, or in this case vaporised by a bomb, leading the audience to question the empathy they place in Mark or Louise.

However, there are as many interpretations as there are people who have seen this play, and as one audience member said on his leaving (escaping) After the End, “I did not trust that Mark guy, I swear to God he didn’t blink once.”


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September 2021
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