There are some great moments in One Last Thing (For Now) by Althea Theatre Company and I could feel the passion of the ensemble, but I would have enjoyed an edited, less messy version far more.
The play is written and directed by Lilac Yosiphon (with the cast) and based on love letters written at times of war, different wars in different eras. The cast members play a variety of roles, some with greater success than others. The stories overlap throughout and bring out themes such as how we speak in war time, what we hide, how the person who is not at war but at home cannot fully comprehend the situation for the other person. There are unusual situations, even a thread about a woman who wishes to send her touch to her husband, and decides that she needs to cut off her hand and traverse the world to give her touch to him herself.
The story which centres on a military school in Israel is very moving, and the teacher who did not go to war is played convincingly by Josephine Arden. I felt that this could have been expanded into a fuller story on its own as it is very poignant and brought tears to my eyes.
I enjoyed Arden in her other roles too, including the modern story of skyping her partner who is away in Afghanistan (another tear-jerker). My other favourite was Elizabeth Stretton (she does a great dog!) and she stole the scenes she was in.
The ensemble work is good, for instance when the group speaks out the punctuation and kisses in a series of texts, and their formation together is really nice at times, but at others the space feels too cramped and it would have been nice if some of them had left the stage at times too.
I also liked the performances by Cole Michaels, who reminded me of a young Christopher Eccleston. His Russian sounded so perfect I felt he must be Russian himself (he’s from Sheffield) and again the story about him not being able to tell a woman that her husband has died, and pretending to be him himself, is another touching one. The cast is truly European and they use untranslated French, Spanish and Russian. Understanding the first two languages, I felt that some of it did need to be translated, as it gave an added dimension that many people would miss.
There is almost too much content to squeeze into one play here. I do admire Yosiphon for the project and there are some important and moving points made here. However I believe that focusing on fewer stories, with fewer characters, and condensing into one act, would improve the flow and the experience for the audience.
By Hatty Uwanogho