Sense of an Ending is a play based on the true story of an American journalist who went to Rwanda to prove the innocence of two nuns accused of war crimes. Charles (Ben Onwukwe) is the journalist interviewing Sister Justina (Lynette Clarke), Sister Alice (Akiya Henry), two nuns and Dusabi (Kevin Golding), the only survivor from the massacre in the church who provides a twist in the story.
Upon arrival there are large projections on a wall showing words and images linked to the play in the foyer. This is helpful as the audience is invited to the world of the play before it even starts.
Before the play officially starts, Sister Justina spreads some incense for about three minutes. This action could have been accompanied with more movement, perhaps some dancing, singing or even humming, just to add more meaning to her presence on stage. Indeed, the play could have just started with the melodious singing that proceeds; this sets the tone and highlights the ecclesiastical role of the nuns and the setting of the massacre that took place.
The simplicity of the play is enjoyable. The set is minimal: it involves three chairs, a few light bulbs, two blinds up-stage and a translucent coloured screen with two doors down-stage. There is a small number of props used and costumes are true to the characters. This minimalism allows the story to come through very well and, though I had a script, it wasn’t necessary to look at in order to follow the play. The actors ensures that characters are believable, and writer Ken Urban has done a good job of ensuring the story is clear.
I tend to think that plays that pose questions, or state that a character has set out to fulfil a mission, should offer a resolution at the end. However, in this instance, I enjoyed the journey of the story as opposed the quest to discover whether or not Charles confirms that the nuns are innocent. The progression of the story is satisfying enough. There is a good use of pace, and the play doesn’t seemed dragged out or long-winded anywhere – the dialogue is purposeful in revealing the story.
It can be argued that the story of a play is the fundamental element, while elements such as lighting, sound, set design and the like are aids and enhancements to the conveyance of the story. Sense of an Ending is a play that has rightly captured the essence of telling a good story.
A striking key part is when Dusabi retells to Charles the moment when a soldier brutally chopped off his wife’s arms. Dusabi’s story comes alive as the people involved in the story stand behind the screen. This is a fantastic way to go into a flashback in a different way: the characters could be seen somewhat and their voices are clearly heard. This reflects how the story is viewed in Dusabi’s own mind: the faces are still somewhat seen in the mind and the voices clearly heard. This reflects the value of simplicity and the use of aids to convey a story better .
Sense of an Ending is well-written and is one to watch if you’d like a play that has a clear and engaging story.
Sense of an Ending is playing at Theatre503 until 6 June. For more information and tickets, visit the Theatre503 website. Photo by Jack Sain.