[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Having toured the world since 2002, this week marks the arrival of Reckless Sleepers’ The Last Supper at York Theatre Royal. The evening is part-theatre, part-meal, where real and fictional, past and future, well-known and half-forgotten final words are served alongside last meals, and death is the ever-present, invisible guest.
As we enter the De Grey Ballroom, every audience member gets allocated a random seat and we take our places around three tables, the top one being occupied by the performers. Wine is served, a hush falls as the first of many toasts are spoken, and then the performance continues.
The premise meant everyone was immediately engaged whether they liked it or not
The Last Supper is unique in my experience. We listen, and watch as three actors speak the final words of famous figures from history and then consume the rice paper these words are written on. The script is punctuated by audience members being served the last meal requests of death row convicts, along with their name and date of execution.
Due to the unique layout, every single person present in the room is exposed and possibly under scrutiny from any other, rendering the role of “audience member” a pleasurably uncomfortable one. With a maximum capacity of 39 supper guests, the premise meant everyone was immediately engaged whether they liked it or not, in a way that is rarely achievable with more conventional performance spaces. The comfort of anonymity is removed. Adding to this, the precisely choreographed movement of the actors, the divide of silence and unfamiliarity between each person, the mostly non-verbal sentences and the measured delivery of the actors, combined to create a truly heavy atmosphere.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily last. Though the performance is gripping at first, there is a lack of variation in delivery that makes the performance hard to follow. It’s possible to get lost very quickly in the flow of single words, dates and names, stated in almost exactly the same tone of voice for each new idea or story. Though at first I felt sombre, I never quite felt the pressure of the ghosts surrounding me or of the horror of what we were being told. Think of the title of the piece, The Last Supper, and you think of death, of Jesus, of goodbyes, of hysteria, of fate – but during the piece I was lulled more than I was horrified. The content was there, but it wasn’t spell-binding in the way that would have pulled the audience into the performance. The work that was done on distancing the audience and of putting them on the spot actually did a disservice in the end. For this type of material you want to be drawn in, to be appealed to on a human and emotional level, something The Last Supper did not act on. Had the tone been more conversational, or more loaded, the effect would have been stronger. There were in fact two notable breaks from the sombre delivery of the actors, one comical and the other frantic, which were very successful and we got a sense of what the show could have been with a little more variation and emotion.
Compliments must be given to the actors on their craft
Another unfortunate aspect was that the set itself wasn’t used to greater effect. The top table served as a stage for the actors, but the lack of interaction with the audience was a lost opportunity to make the play really hit home, especially since everyone dined in such close quarters. As a result the whole setting seemed to be incidental rather than intentional. The De Grey Ballroom itself, though impressive at first, did a disservice to the play as it was too large and it echoed. Although we might have been in any room, anywhere, and the performance would have been the same, I do feel that in a room where words carry and don’t echo, the heavy atmosphere I felt was lacking would have been much more present.
Despite my reservations with the play, compliments must be given to the actors on their craft. Leen Dewilde, Tim Ingram and Mole Wetherell (who was also the artistic director), are exceptionally capable and talented performers. I also feel that another audience member, who may be more attuned to the subject matter than myself would in all probability enjoy The Last Supper a lot, but my feeling remains that many people could not have been completely overwhelmed by it.
*The Last Supper is playing 7th-9th October at the De Grey Ballroom, York Theatre Royal. Ticket can be purchased here.
All photos courtesy of Reckless Sleepers.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][testimonial_i title=”The Last Supper” date=”” rating=”4″ company=”Vita Ingram-Anichkin” image=”https://unknownmagazineonline.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/the-last-supper-credit-reckless-sleepers.jpg” image_style=”2″ border=”#eeeeee”]The idea behind the play, treated in this way, deserves to be overpowering. Whilst I myself was not overcome with emotion or feeling by being a part of this performance, it was truly an experience worth having – if only to admire the concept behind it and the moments of true theatrical power.[/testimonial_i][/vc_column][/vc_row]