Someone Dies At The End – A play in the Fringe Festival of Edinburgh
The day we saw the world premiere of Someone Dies At The End by Sneaky Wheelz Productions, a new production company straight from New York, we were actually off to see The Tempest. As a literature student who naturally had a Shakespeare class last semester, and Laurence who wrote about The Tempest in his dissertation back in high school, we felt especially obligated in going to see it while the festival was on. It seemed it would educate and enrich us by finally seeing it live. And maybe it would have. However my mistake in booking the wrong dates and only realising once we were at the venue, which lead us to picking Someone Dies At The End randomly, left us feeling enriched in a different way. The performance, story, and small production venue all combined so well we felt in the end it was a much more exciting and refreshing experience than we might have had otherwise.
Someone Dies At The End is an apocalyptic play set in America, in which what seems like a nuclear war has just occurred and in the rubble there are now a devastating lack of people trying to survive the effects of radiation in the outside world. However most of this is assumed from the cast and the scenery rather than plainly told, as the play plunges into the scene without hesitation or introduction. Our particular cast hides in a cave and refer to each other by the names of the states they came from as an attempt to keep their past where it belongs, sharing their beans. However even this small stability they have managed to withhold is quickly changed as more characters arrive looking for help.
One of the great things about the play is the way the venue is used as part of the stage. Despite the large story and setting, the venue itself was tiny, about the size of a large living room. The people filled it up easily with only one or two gaps, and we were so close to the stage that it seemed our seating had in fact compromised the space for staging. The stage was a triangular shape, just slightly jutting out of the background, holding only had a few small props like a stool and blankets which were to represent their beds, and nothing else. The characters had only their tattered plain clothing on the entire time and no costume changes. However, the entire venue here seemed decorated as a cave – darkened all around with only spotlights above the actors, and an array of large black curtains all around the stage and seating which they could disappear into.
New characters came in from behind us, running through the squashed narrow spaces between our seats, with their knocks being heard on the stereo system above us. The characters settled off the stage in between our legs tapping at a broken radio, with an explosive confrontation between two of them even taking place right above our noses. This technique worked so well that all which lacked in the props, setting and space only aided in blending the staging with the audience space, making it seem larger and boundless. The emotions also transferred to us more easily, like we were part of the bubble suspended in the middle of nowhere with them, rather than cut off spectators watching a place neatly separated from us. Sometimes less is more, and here they embraced that perfectly.
While a genre and setting like this can sometimes be overdone and exhausted, the tone in this play was very self aware. While it was serious and full of electricity in some moments, other times it was innocent, funny and ironic. One of my favourite scenes was when a few characters attempted to create a French dinner scene for a guy and girl so that they could have a date. The characters were doing for these two, what the actors were doing for the audience. Making us imagine and play. It felt so genuine, and even the lines in which they awkwardly flirted with one another, and the desperate ways they seemed aware of their reality and at the same time trying to escape it in each other, felt real and quite painful. It showed that humans are still humans no matter where they are, and I thought that was a wonderful way for the audience to relate to the characters.
Above all, however, the performance of the actors was the highlight of this little production. As small as it was, and with as little as we knew, they were captivating from the first second. While people were still slightly trickling in and the lights were still on, the main actor came in and began setting things on the stage. At first it seemed like he was just fixing the staging, but then quickly we realised he was acting. Quietly he went about setting the table and beans, as a girl joined in, and then one other person. The three of them quietly went on, impervious. Opening their can of beans, drying the water from their faces and hair. There was a tension between them which seemed connected by rope. We were all suddenly drawn in – all without any dialogue yet.
By the time they began to talk, casually and in mid-thought, we the audience already understood so much. There was always a feeling that there was something just beneath the surface, in all of them. A backstory waiting to be told. Even once new characters were introduced, stumbling into the bubble which was so familiarly established to us, they blended in perfectly. Each new character instantly became part of the core, extending and adding to the plot equally; as mysterious and with as much depth as the trio at the start. Whether they were silent, or dancing, or awkwardly flirting or screaming, there seemed to be a real genuine feeling behind it all which was especially astounding considering that we were just in one small room in the middle of Edinburgh. How easily we could be transported somewhere entirely new is testament of the raw talent these actors had. None of it seemed cheesy or repeated.
Someone Dies At The End for me wasn’t just a play, it was an experience. It was refreshing, powerful, clever and new. We were especially lucky to stumble upon it in its world premiere, but if you have a chance to watch this play or any others from Sneaky Wheelz Productions I highly recommend it. There is a lot of promise from them.
Find more information about their work and how you can follow them on their website: https://www.squeakywheelzproductions.com/
*My phone died before I could take pictures of the place, so these pictures were taken from the Sneaky Wheels Productions website.