From the moment you arrive at the top floor of C SoCo, be prepared to be whisked into the whirlwind of energy created by this tightly drilled ensemble. A chorus of Silk Worm Eggs await your arrival and escort you to your seats, immediately endearing and engaging themselves to the audience simultaneously. By the time the play actually starts, you can be quietly confident in the quality of the show, having seen such a dynamic ensemble at work, where every single member is actively involved. And, thankfully, as the show progresses, you are not to be disappointed!
To The End Of The World is a celebration of the art of story-telling. The Silk Worm Eggs have a story to tell; a story narrated in a hugely vibrant and exciting way, invoking music, dance and mime, whilst always remaining to true to telling the story. It is a story where the lightest touch, the smallest gesture, the most insignificant of words has the greatest consequence. That might sound rather heavy, but the cast infuse it with enough humour and deftness of touch to keep the piece light and humorous, yet achingly poignant at the climax.
The programme notes describe the company as having: a common passion for fresh and innovative live performance... committed to making theatre that is engaging but not easy, aesthetic without being vacuous, and which celebrates the infinite possibilities of the live performance a desire to entertain and engage. On every angle, this production succeeds.
With nothing but a bare stage, the 12-strong cast ingeniously and wittily create locations ranging from a train station to a shipwreck; a butterfly enclosure to a brothel. The cast are dressed entirely in white, yet each scene change brings a new wave of colour, as if a painter had liberally applied his brushstrokes. Bursts of song help create a range of atmospheres from the celebrations in the café to the quiet, orderly nature of Ban Chaos court, with a spot of love-making on the way.
The direction by Mike Davis is simply beautiful. His staging is dynamic, imaginative and varied, and keeps things moving at a cracking pace. He has crafted and honed a huge range of skills within his cast, and built a true ensemble, where every single actor works in contributing to the story-telling. Just as much joy is to be found watching the chorus of Silk Worm Eggs enjoying listening to the story unfolding onstage as it is in hearing the story yourself.
Each actor has a variety of roles to play and infuses each one with such versatility that you could be forgiven for thinking that a cast of 100 was involved! Special mention must be made of Jack Coal whose portrayal of both Maria and Madge is a delight to watch, full of comedy and charisma. Davis also creates a spookily chilling Ban Chao, the head of the Silk empire. Yet this is a show where it feels almost wrong to pick out individual performances, for the delight results from the entire ensemble. Skill resonates from every angle and the result is breathtaking.
There are some niggles along the way: a couple of the characters do not thoroughly convince, and the piece could have been trimmed by ten minutes or so. Yet, at the climax, the acting, music and visual imagery built to such a beautiful and moving crescendo that the tears were out in force for this reviewer; more than enough to allow forgiveness for these minor quibbles.
At the end of the day, would I recommend it to people as an unmissable show? Since the moment I left the theatre I have been passing it on to everyone, and several key moments remain etched on my mind. Get yourself a ticket quick-smart, and allow yourself to fully embrace this wonderful and quirky theatrical experience; its one not to be missed.