Last Easter

Bryony Lavery's Last Easter is a one-act comedy about cancer, euthanasia and the vestigial presence of religious imagery in our hopeless, secular lives. Laughing yet? Surprisingly, you will be, as the four-person cast infuse the script with different, lively personalities that all do their part towards averting the car-crash/flatline (delete as appropriate) that such a text could undoubtedly end up as.For my money the best performance came from Joy, a jolly-hockey-sticks wino in the best Joanna Lumley style who gets one of the night's biggest giggles ending one tirade 'fuck everything, and fuck you!' Joy likes saying 'fuck' and pretending not to notice the agonising pain her friend June is suffering, but like with all three of June's friends-to-the-end it's at least partly a facade, a comment on the potentially-tragic fact that our culture has few ways of processing mortality other than attempting to laugh at, about and around it that's no less effective for being hilariously funny.Leah, a neurotic American, is also wonderful, giving at times the impression she might just be able to fight off death with a puppet frog. Perhaps the hardest part is June herself, both young and touched with the premature age of a terminal illness, but by and large the role is handled with a quiet, unflinching dignity, albeit one that sometimes makes it hard to believe that end is really coming. I was less impressed by gay Catholic Gash (if there's a justification for the name, I missed it), but that's no comment on the actor playing him; as his inner conflicts were never given space for dramatic development the character became a caricature of an unhelpfully-stereotyped promiscuous, effeminate image of homosexuality already too prominent in broadcast media.The four work extremely well as a unit, turning a mostly-bare stage into a variety of locations through simple changes of set and lighting, an eerie background humming creating a great sense of atmosphere for the central trip to Lourdes. The one thing I'd previously heard about this show, that in previous productions the dying June had left this life by walking out 'towards the light' through the audience, was sadly absent in this interpretation and would have made a nice touch, but a horrendous glowing Virgin Mary statue, a few glimpses of genuine poetic power, a fierce contemporaneity of reference and a scene where someone considers suffocation with a 'Bag For Life' more than make up for the lack of this gimmick. Although occasionally solemn, Lavery's writing is never bleak and without ever directly confronting its central issue – the response to death – the question is posed and answers suggested in all corners, light and dark, of this production. In conclusion: dead funny.

Reviews by Richard O'Brien

The Blurb

A contemporary tragicomedy, which explores the miraculous powers of sex, alcohol and comedy; as four best friends embark on a sordid pilgrimage to Lourdes in order to laugh and heal. ***** (Broadwaybaby.com, on Article 19's 'Art' 2009).