It is always fascinating to encounter the many different venues around London that harbour theatre performances. This happens with such inventiveness in London as it happens in very few places in the world – there can be a theatre everywhere people are allowed to gather. Movingstage invested in a boat to present their work – Puppet Theatre Barge. They create this bizarre and entrancing atmosphere giving the audience the feeling of going on a voyage to another reality.
End Games is a somewhat ironic and poignant look on aging. Its script is built around the poetry of Finuala Dowling – Notes from the Dementia Ward. Dowling’s words are impregnated with beauty and truth – but an inconvenient truth that no one wants to think about. It unavoidably causes some pain to dwell in the topic of old age – as it is a path that awaits us all. So what is the point of thinking about it and having a play about it? I guess it can make us be more understanding and caring towards those who are experiencing old age, illness and loss of memory as so much of our aged population is disregarded and alone.
End Games makes me feel like that elderly woman (the figure of Grandma) who sits on a wheelchair and eventually looses her memory and control over her body. There are a few antagonisms that enhance the theme – the presence of children is a very powerful one as it symbolizes the beginning of the journey that is about to end for the elder people. Also the celebration of Grandma’s birthday is quite unsettling to watch as everyone sings Happy Birthday dissonantly and joy seems fabricated. The elder ones watch a puppet show which attempts to distract and entertain away from reality. Decadence is felt throughout this supposed celebration of life. What kind of life is this one anyway? Is it still life when you are just a body that your mind can’t control and your mind is irrevocably confused?
The puppetry is exquisite – one forgets that one’s watching puppets as the story grasps the attention and immerses the audience into that way of life. It is intriguing to watch and quite eerie at points. In the end, I can’t help comparing the puppet, a lifeless object, with the almost lack of life in the characters they portray. Also, as old age is something that inevitably happens to mankind if we fail to die of anything else previously, it makes me associate the figure of a God as the possible metaphorical puppet master that plays cruelly with its puppets – us. One of my favourite moments of the entire performance is Grandma’s dream in which she is merely a head who has lost its body, and discourses with a spider. Her helplessness and confusion is apparent in her questions and reflections on her condition.
Being this a dark subject in a rather strange setting I would enjoy a bit more lightness in the way it is handled, but that is probably because I feel very uncomfortable and want some sort of positive outlook that would appease my fearful mind. Regardless of the topic’s density, this is a very well achieved show by Movingstage Theatre Company and I am left thoroughly impressed. 4/5
Review written by Sofia Moura.
End Games is currently showing at the Puppet Theatre Barge until Saturday 26th September. For more information on the production, visit here…