A new piece of work by a new BAME theatre ensemble The Last Company Theatre, Last Rehearsal is written and directed by Chilean Maria Jose Andrade. Here, three actors are abandoned by their director on the final day of rehearsal of a ‘work’ they have been putting together for months. The reason? The director claims the work is a failure. The assistant director finds herself positioned awkwardly between wanting to help the actors, while also having to present them with serious problems with the project – both artistic and financial. What follows is a debate as to how, or if, they should proceed. Should they abandon the work, or should they continue? Tensions rise and scores are settled amongst the cast. Petty issues assume larger proportions and their commitment to the project is called into question.
The company try hard to make what is essentially a philosophical encounter entertaining
The play explores some interesting issues around success and failure, as well as digging up the old chestnut 'What Is Art?' The ‘work’ they are engaged in is itself an overwrought, over-thought performance-arty series of poems performed with German Expressionist lighting, and owing more than a nod to Laurie Anderson’s O Superman. The poems are underscored with weird atmospheric music (composed by Anna Bauer). Later, one of the cast has the brilliant idea of ‘just saying the words’ - perhaps the funniest line in the play. Further questions arise. What, precisely, would constitute an artistic ‘failure’? Failure to communicate with an audience, perhaps? A segment spoken entirely in Spanish works well as a literalisation of this argument. And what is the fundamental principle of acting anyway, emotion or stagecraft?
The sparse set, predictably looking just like a rehearsal room, is stark and slightly dwarfed by the venue, rendering the space unforgiving. The company try hard to make what is essentially a philosophical encounter entertaining, but for this reviewer the show is patchy, with some experiments working better than others. I can’t help feeling it would work much better in a smaller venue, which would offer a sense of a crucible (of ideas). Finally, we do not discover if the actors decide to continue with the ‘work’. Is the wind effect that closes the play that very wind which will blow the pretentious carapace away to reveal something performable and real? Isn’t that every artist’s dream?