Set in the aftermath of the Russian revolution, the chaos in which the Kolomiitsev family finds itself, in public as well as behind closed doors, inevitably comes to a head. The Last Ones, by Maxim Gorky, is a relevant piece, with themes of pride, power and scapegoating, sadly reflecting the present political situation.
Despite the bleak setting, there is light as well as dark in the company’s performance, directed by Anthony Biggs. Maroussia Frank plays Fedosia, the family nurse, who blends into the background during a lot of scenes, and comes out with one liners which also have an oracle-like wisdom. Her deadpan interpretation of this character is a welcome contrast to the emotional outbursts that are required of the other roles. With well meant intentions, not all character choices by some of the actors are particularly clear, making various moments difficult to interpret. Gillian Kirkpatrick plays Mrs Sokolova, the calm and confident mother of a suspected terrorist, and she carries herself with grace in even the most straining of circumstances. Kirkpatrick’s energy is enticing, a memorable performance. With the audience sitting at the sides of the stage as well as end-on, there are many moments when we are watching the back of the actors’ heads, making it a struggle to remain completely engaged and understand what these characters feelings and intentions are. That being said, Omar Baroud is charming as the easily led Yakorev, creating comedic gems in his small moments.
Cecilia Trono’s clever set design symbolises the family’s current state, the walls are crumbling around them, in a dilapidated room, with the floor partially carpeted, as if the material has been singed. Minimal furniture and props are used to reinforce the fact that the family is running out of money. Snippets of radio news broadcasts are played as the audience enters, some being historical, and some from as recent as last year, containing one of Trump’s campaign speeches. This choice by Yvonne Gilbert (sound design) drives home the parallels which suggests why this play is still being performed today.
The Last Ones can be seen as a warning of history repeating itself, and whilst there are some strong moments containing bouts of energy, these difficult events appear to be hard to grasp for some of the cast. This is a strong piece of writing with shocking revelations and cutting sarcasm, and an underlying feeling of helplessness and desperation.
The Last Ones is playing Jermyn Street Theatre until July 1.