This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.
Grief and loss often act as a catalyst for artistic expression but in the case of Endings the impetus for creativity is the moment of life ending itself. A combination of analogue and digital technology mix with dramatic lighting in this docu-theatre performance piece by Tamara Saulwick. Reel-to-reel tape recorders rustle and churn out words from the past; memory and moments ingrained on shiny tape. Vinyl on turntables documents the end of life passage for an array of people, relayed by loved ones who were privileged enough to be there. These collective reflections are played and manipulated, interspersed with live music performance. At times Saulwick joins in with the recordings in a conversational manner. At other times she speaks the words already spoken. Between these acts she bears witness to the very personal portraits of death.
Saulwick is joined on stage by singer-songwriter Paddy Mann and sound designer/artist Peter Knight. Mann’s understated style and gentle tones offer the perfect homily to this wonderful piece, presided over by the near invisible Knight. The tenderness expressed throughout has a beguiling quality that doesn’t lament over loss but rather appreciates the process of death as something that can be experienced full of love and quietude. The pain of loss and grief is no less because of this, but Endings recognises that there is beauty in the final, most intimate moments of life.
Lighting (Ben Cobham / bluebottle) is mostly pendulous lamps with a votive quality that are handled by Saulwick and Mann throughout the performance. A powerful and near terrifying scene uses strobe lighting to excellent effect, breaking the serenity of the piece. Although jarring, his hints at the hardship of death as well as the fear of the unknown when the light of this life dims.
This hour long production holds a sadness that is never depressing and demonstrates how a discussion about death does not have to be morbid. An exquisite piece of theatre, it is filled with warmth and care that resonates beyond the obvious and is hugely affective. Endings is oddly comforting memento mori for us all.
Concept and Text: Tamara Saulwick
Song Writer: Paddy Mann