Lit by a sequence of flush ceiling lights, the audience sit traverse in a pseudo-conference room. A table marks one side; a pair of sofas’ the other. Mia (Maria McAteer) puts her headphones in and words ghost about her lips. A song of reconciliation is made audible by surrounding speakers.
At first, letting the song run from beginning to end may seem indulgent and static, however, it soon becomes apparent that the events are happening in real time, and real space. Karen Spicer’s structuring of audience, in tandem with McAteer’s referential writing, interacts with the environment and creates a fly-on-the-wall experience for the spectator.
One Last Look follows Mia and Mark (Hugo Degenhardt), as they wait. Wait for a call, wait for an arrival, wait for each other. Building their shared history with a sustained pace, McAteer’s text fleshes this out through dialogue littered with subtle humour, and just enough ambiguity to engage the imagination.
Their relationship forms the core of the piece, and the actors maintain a genuine rapport throughout. Occasionally the pair stray into a mechanical back-and-forth, but this is quickly recovered. Nevertheless, as the plot pulls them closer together, a lack of physical connection undermines the tension that the piece has strived so hard to achieve.
Interestingly, the production team have chosen to use a 15-minute interval as a means of separating two 30-minute sections of action. Initially, this seems unnecessary, but later it becomes apparent that this is to accommodate a shift in tone. If intrigue drives the first half, then tension drives the second.
In this production, trust is uncertain. The audience is left to make their own judgments of truthfulness until the very end, and the actors play their roles with enough nuance to foster doubt.
Given the constraints of fringe performance, the play makes intelligent decisions and elevates the material to its utmost. The writing echoes a Pinter-esque menace, managing to deliver a balanced narrative that is neither shrouded in undue mystery, nor obvious exposition. The particular brand of immersive realism that One Last Look has to offer is concise and refreshing.
One Last Look is playing London Irish Centre until Friday 17th August. For more information and tickets, see here.
Photo Credit: Maria McAteer