After The End by Dennis Kelly was performed at the Shepherd’s Bush Theatre in London in September 2005 by the Paines Plough theatre company. It is about two people who are in a nuclear fallout shelter because there has been a nuclear attack. Mark and Louise are in this shelter and we find out what happens to these two people in this shelter over a period of three weeks. As the time goes, Mark and Louise are fighting a psychological war against each other and it starts to take the toll sooner than expected.
I believe the aim of the play was to show how people can react in extreme circumstances and how it can bring out the best and worse in people as well as having elements of shock, black comedy, tension, horror, showing the gain of power and moments of bleakness. Roxanna Silbert has definitely thought about the pace and timing as this is reflected throughout the production. The two actors play only one character in the production but they are represented with great skill and thought. They both remain on stage for the whole production and stay in character for the whole time, even during transitions, when they are moving props around.
They are in character the whole time and do not come out of role just because they are moving props around and changing position on stage for the next scene. The transitions between scenes were smooth as the actors knew where the props went and they even started acting before the lights. One actor, Tom Brooke, represented the nervy, creepy character that was Mark. Tom Brooke was successful in showing the changes in his attitude towards Louise and the situation, showing the actor’s flexibility.
During the start of the play, he came across as nervous and trying to make Louise more comfortable in their current situation my adding some jokes and comic moments. When Mark is going through the tins of food that he has rationed for them, he uses a different tone, slightly comic when he keeps saying ‘chilli’. He puts the emphasis on the word, as there isn’t much else. When he finds another tin that isn’t chilli, he slightly raises the pitch, to show that he is quite interested and excited there is something else besides chilli.
Brooke handles the comedy well, as he knows when to put emphasis on a word, to change the tone or change the pitch. The humour is inappropriate and awkward as it is said at times that are serious. This breaks the tension between the characters. Brooke uses different parts of his face when making facial expressions such as his eyes, mouth and eyebrows. When he wakes up when Louise falls asleep with the knife in her hand, he makes his eyes extremely wide; to show how psychotic he is and has progressed into.
This is also an example of great timing with the other actor, as Brooke knows when Kerry Condon has fallen asleep. There is enough time between her lowering her head and him waking up. Brooke hasn’t done it too early or too late to lose tension, he has done it at the right time and it is very effective. Brooke gives the role individual characteristics, or idiosyncrasy to make the character unique such as when he is nervous, Brooke fidgets stutters and has tiny gestures to emphasise his nervousness in the situation.
During the production, a number of props are used and Brooke knows how to work with them, when to use them and what attitude to have. When Mark is having his fight with Louise, Brooke creates facial expressions and movements that make Mark come across as menacing and violent with the knife. The choreography is cleverly done and planned very well. The costume of Mark is quite smart: a shirt and black trousers. During the production, clothes are taken off, (he is only wearing his boxers towards the end) which could be symbolism of the breakdown of civilisation and that order doesn’t count anymore.
The audience can empathise with Mark towards the beginning of the production because he really likes Louise and people have been in that kind of problem before. The audience knows what he is going through. But as the production progresses, the audience can see what kind of person he really is. He goes crazy by the end as he is threatening to kill Louise if she doesn’t say she loves him. The actors worked closely together, as the space is very small and intimate. Gemma Pohlowan Kerry Condon played the character Louise who is in the nuclear fallout shelter with Mark.
Condon uses dramatic timing and awareness of space very well, she works well with Brooke to make sure timing is right, and that each pause is just right in length. As Condon has a great awareness of these two elements, it creates tension between both characters. She uses facial expressions to show what mood she is in. when Mark is preparing the food, he puts a small amount on Louise’s plate and a large amount on his plate. Louise’s face is that of shock and of earnest, trying to get Mark’s attention to give her more food. She doesn’t believe that he’ll actually do that but he does.
Condon creates this tension between them just by the facial expressions and her gestures towards Mark. Condon has an Irish accent and this adds to the persona of Louise. She uses tone, pitch and volume to get her point across. When she is angry with Mark, Condon raises her voice at him and emphasises on swear words. Condon reveals the sub-text to the audience just from saying the line ‘Don’t Mark’. She is saying this to him and she is revealing that she will take revenge if he does do it. There is a sense of truth and belief in the way Condon portrays Louise.
The audience can sympathise with her as a mad man wants her to love him and he is obsessed. He was going to kill her so she reacts as if it is a real life situation. But the tables turn on Mark, when Louise gets the knife, which shows her menacing and dangerous personality. Condon is comfortable with the props and uses them effectively. Condon wears a kind of dress as Louise’s costume, which could mean that Louise might have been out before she was in the bomb shelter. The clothes gradually become dirty as the production advances.
As with Mark, this could show the breakdown on civilisation of society in the shelter and how order between the two characters is no longer there. The actors’ relationship with each other comes across as strong as they both have trust, concentration, confidence, self-confidence, knowledge and professionalism about them. This is reflected on stage as they are capable of being intimate with each other and be distant. The actor/audience relationship varies throughout the production. There are times of comedy, which builds the audience as being a funny production until the seriousness brings them back to reality.
Tension is built right through the production, with the silences, pauses, reactions to other character and movement. This had the audience on edge, wondering what would happen next. People were excited, anxious, curious, even scared of what would happen next to Mark and Louise. There were definite moments of shock and disgust especially with the rape scene. The audience was so close to the action it was as if they were part of the bunker. Overall, I felt both actors performed with great thought and skill.
They were both capable of being flexible when necessary and able to use what they were given such as time, space and props. They were able to play with the audience in different parts of the production. Each of the characters had had a lot of consideration on how they should be portrayed and I think it worked as the audience reacted to it. I thought it was very impressive, as they had to be on stage for an hour and a half and perform something that is not easy to do. The production is well worth seeing and I’m glad I did see it as it now allows me to think of acting in a different style.