Some cities have a mystique about them that defies Logic. Berlin is just such a city. Its history is amazing – particularly in the 20th Century – and there is an inexplicable magic about the place that draws people back – even across the generations – time and time again. Some of this is explored by Rose Lewenstein in the world premiere of her play “Now This Is Not The End” at the Arcola Theatre.
This one act play is the story of three generations of women from the same family. The youngest, Rosie (Jasmine Blackborow) a student doing the second year of her German Studies degree in Berlin has fallen in love with local lad and artist Sebastian (Daniel Donskoy) who doesn’t want her to return to the UK for the final year of her studies. Rosie is torn between fulfilling her original plans of going back with her mother Susan (Wendy Nottingham) and partner Paul (Andrew Whipp) and staying with Sebastian in a city she has come to love and think of as ‘heimat’. Berlin is a city with a strong family connection, as her half-Jewish grandmother, Eva (Brigit Forsyth) had been born and brought up there. Eva had narrowly escaped being rounded up by Hitler’s SS and being sent to a concentration camp (as her parents were). Susan had always been fascinated by Eva’s life in Berlin and had, a few years ago, persuaded her mother to record her tales on a tape that 12 years later would be highly significant to everyone. Now though, following the death of her partner Arnold (Bernard Lloyd), Eva is a care home resident, and is slowly fading into the world of dementia, her moments of lucidity becoming fewer as the days go by.
This is the story of three very strong women that, to my mind, have real trouble expressing their feelings properly. Whilst all three can get very emotional, they are not able to talk about more complicated matters like their love of each other. The Director, Katie Lewis, has not over-egged the pudding in staging “Now This Is Not The End” and the story is told very simply on a large stage furnished with a couple of chairs, the action moving between the years from today, back to 2002 seamlessly, the writing make it obvious where we are in the narrative. Of the male characters, my favourite was Paul, played with a kind of nonchalant weariness by Andrew Whipp. Paul has some of the funniest lines in the show, often ensuring that the atmosphere doesn’t become overwhelmingly intense. Whilst the men are important in the story, it is the women that really carry the show and each of the actresses plays their part superbly – particularly Brigit Forsyth whose portrayal of Eva from a lively intelligent woman recalling her days in Berlin to the empty minded, lonely woman sunk into a world of her own is excellent, and haunting to observe. I’m guessing that writer Rose Lewenstein has some personal knowledge (either directly or indirectly) of some of the events of which she writes as the language feels really authentic. Eva’s description of life in the Hitler Youth, ‘…it was great fun, we did all sorts of things together, went on outings, sang songs… we sang a lot about Hitler’ is a wonderful example of the writing style which evokes a picture of a group of Girl Guide types out having a field trip, until the last eight words bring us back to earth with a bump and remind us of the reality of life in the Third Reich.
If I’m really honest, I thought the play finished too soon. I wanted it to go on, to see the relationship between the women play out over the years – especially as Eva got worse. I would also have liked to have seen Susan and Eva together more with the Susan trying to get her mother to remember and talk about her experiences, though as Eva so eloquently puts it ‘Everybody told us to forget about it. Now we’re all dying and everybody wants us to remember’
All in all “Now Is Not The End” is a fascinating piece that made me think about family relationships and how easy it is to assume our loved ones will always be there for us to talk to.
By Terry Eastham
Rebecca Targett Productions in association with Raising Silver Theatre presents
Now This Is Not The End by Rose Lewenstein
“They’re just stories. There’ll come a point when nobody can remember”
Six decades ago, Eva lived in Berlin. She remembers her house on Essener Straße. It used to have a blue door.
Now her granddaughter Rosie is making the city her home. But just as she begins to plan for her future, Eva’s oncoming dementia causes Rosie to question her family’s past.
As secrets unravel around her, what will Rosie discover? And what will be lost forever?
Now This Is Not The End is the story of three generations of women, two capital cities and one vital struggle to keep memories alive.
Developed at the Royal Court by one of our most exciting emerging playwrights, Rose Lewenstein’s poignant drama asks how the actions of our ancestors shape our future, how we come to have an identity of our own, and what – if anything – it means to have a homeland.
Directed by Katie Lewis
Designer Holly Pigott
Composer and Sound Designer Dan Jeffries
Lighting Designer Prema Mehta
Design Assistant Anna Kezia Williams
Cast: Brigit Forsyth, Jasmine Blackborow, Daniel Donskoy, Wendy Nottingham, Andrew Whipp and Bernard Lloyd
3rd June 2015 to 27th June 2015
Saturday 6th June 2015