Before this show even properly began I was pulled out of line by one of the actresses, and she told me my name was now Tori. She then told me a story in which Tori dreams of bleaching her skin, of becoming a pretty white girl, with blonde hair and blue eyes. I was then left alone to awkwardly walk back to the line and into the auditorium. I felt like crying.
This performance piece falls more in line with the idea of performance art, rather than a traditional ‘play’. There is a plot, and a message, but it explodes far beyond the boundaries of what we would expect, so to review it as a ‘play’ would be doing a tremendous disservice. It is more than just an allegorical musing, it is a display of raw and terrifying emotion. A diverse cast from the United States jump, yell, sing, fight on stage, eyes popping and throats choked up with pain, demanding to be listened to, and constantly shut down by the tech department themselves. In the opening they are forced to announce their names, where they are from, and throughout they attempt to explain why they left, what they are trying to find. It seems like their struggles were in vain; they are surrounded by distorted sounds that drown them out, a violent onslaught of mixed media that attempts to distract us from the real issues these people are trying to discuss, they are plunged into darkness when they try to reach out for help. This performance is about asking you to listen, to help, as it is starved and tortured. We are not involved in their plight, we can leave, get aid. The forced passivity of being an audience member is harrowing.
While a lot to keep up with, the performance does a tremendous job of expressing the conflict within these people, both internal and external, and it is hard not to flinch away as the reality they are stuck in is distorted into strange, disturbing soundscapes and images. One of the final ones is a woman gagged and dragged away, thrashing, as she desperately grabs our attention to talk about equal rights, face obscured by those, now ominous, stars and stripes. This show looks like chaos, it sounds like a cry for help, it screams for America to explain itself, to explain why it left these people behind to doubt their own worth, their own place.
Without a doubt it will be considered ‘polarising’ for some reason; either the performance is too loud, too strange. I disagree: in a way this is subverted in the performance itself. They are loud, they are bizarre, they know no other way, they perceive this world like a trap, a confusing prison, and because we refuse to understand, on the basis that it is a perspective we do not initially grasp, or refuse to understand simply because they speak a different language, contributes to the harmful denial of progress.
‘The End, The End, The End’ begs you to listen, seems to know on some level that you will not, yet forces itself to be heard and make an impact. I left feeling upset and with a lingering sense of doom. If this is how Americans perceive their country, as something fake and abhorrent, we can no longer deny that something is extremely wrong.