Scenes from the End

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2016

reviews

Ed Grimble

at 11:27 on 26th Aug 2016

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The search for beginnings and ends is one of the most incesant and intriguing in humankind’s nature. We observe, record, form trends and patterns, order things on timelines; and so the ineffability of what comes after- after the end of a life, of a species, or of the cosmos- frustrates and fascinates us. In ‘Scenes from the End’, soprano Héloïse Werner uses the power of sound and the voice to prismatically unpack what it means for different things to end, and our fundamental addiction to trying to comprehend to discover the secrets of finality.

Divided into three distinct sections: the end of the universe, the end of humanity, and the end of a life; ‘Scenes from the End’ seems to slide gradually from the macro to the micro in its exploration of endings. There is a perplexing levelling effect at work here: in that even the anonymous individual and the infinitude of the universe are united by this shared inevitability. Both will end. This is, perhaps, the only thing that ‘Scenes from the End’ professes to know with any surety. Beyond this, Jonathan Woolgar’s words and music seem to encourage a negative capability: a desire to embrace the fact that perhaps these unknowns will remain forever just that, unknown.

Situating the work within a canon of others, from Houseman to Shakespeare to Sagan, is- although perhaps a little self aggrandising- a subtle way of demonstrating that the issues raised in ‘Scenes from the End’ are not breaking new ground, but rather this is a small contribution to a well trod philosophical and theological issue. Werner places her singular voice alongside those of many others. And what a voice. I am no musical expert, but any layman cannot fail to be in awe of the young sopranos vocal abilities. It really is hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck stuff, and her wonderfully expressive face means that 45 minutes of operatic singing remains engaging.

It is a shame, then, that at times this execution is sabotaged by the piece’s actual content. Professing to be ‘prosaic despite its artistic complexity’, some of words spoken and sung by Werner do at times feel overly simplistic. There is at times a sense of incongruity between the musicality and intricately crafted performance itself, and the raw content of the lyrics, which at times rely a little to heavily on clichéd nihilistic utterances. These issues can in now ay threaten to seriously derail the piece, however.

To happily misquote T. S. Eliot then, ’Scenes from the End’ very much goes off not with a whimper, but with a bang.

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Zoe Bowman

at 18:21 on 26th Aug 2016

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The notions of grief and loss are experienced by every single one of us at some points in our lives, and yet many struggle to both comprehend and come to terms with these feelings. In this one-woman show, soprano Héloïse Werner uses operatic vocals and percussive techniques to communicate three scenes; the end of the universe, the end of humanity and the end of a human life. Whilst it is an interesting concept that has clearly taken a lot of thought and consideration to create, more often than not this production gets lost in its own obscurity.

Werner's three sections all vary from one to the next, and admittedly some are more successful than others. The sparseness of the script and the lack of substantial plot may be intentional, however this means that the overall performance is baffling. At the beginning, we see Werner singing single words such as "oblivion", "inevitable" and "inhuman" repeatedly. This peculiar method of communication causes confusion amongst the audience. 'Scenes From the End' projects quotes from the likes of Houseman and Shakespeare onto the backdrop of the stage, and one feels like the message of the production would be extremely lost without these prompts. This issue is remedied in the most relatable section, the end of a life. Whilst the script is still bare, Werner's expressiveness and emotion captures feelings of grief and loss perfectly. This sense of grief is never fully explained, allowing this experience to be universal.

It is undeniable that Werner has immense talent; she sings her way effortlessly through the performance with soprano vocals that stun the entire audience. The lack of musical accompaniment adds to the intense impressiveness of the performance, with all of the focus on Werner's voice and the message she is trying to communicate.

If anything, this performance is definitely thought-provoking.

Whether that being thoughts on our own fragile morality, or thoughts on what on earth it is that you just witnessed. If you have an open mind on obscure performances such as 'Scenes From the End', then this production will provide for an interesting watch. However, whilst the talent of Werner is indisputable, it is all too easy to get lost.

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