Final Farewell is a multi-layered theatrical experience by Tara Theatre that explores grief, remembrance and mortality through six short audio stories. Each of the six stories puts us in the footsteps of those who succumbed to the pandemic, their lives remembered through the real-life memories and testimonies of those who knew them, which were then crafted by writer Sudha Bhuchar and dramatized by Tara’s creative ensemble. The audience is invited to listen to these stories and undertake an outdoor walk through the arches of Henry Prince Estate into the gardens of King George’s Park, walking past the Old Burial Ground in Garratt Lane and St. Anne’s Church. The audio walk is accompanied by an exhibition containing artefacts and items to commemorate each story, as well as a digital photo frame curated by Tara Theatre where anyone could send in photos of loved ones they’ve bid goodbye. The evening culminates with an audio-visual experiences that the audience witnesses together in the theatre, wherein we hear the verbatim accounts of Tara’s community members who contributed the six stories for Final Farewell. In the end, the audience is invited to leave behind a message for someone they lost, marking an end to a remarkably moving night.
From the very beginning, one can see the immense amount of care and mindfulness taken in crafting this experience that deals with a difficult, real-life subject matter. From content and trigger warnings that are displayed on the promotional material, to the health and safety briefings done at the venue before the walk and the gentle, welcoming atmosphere that greets us when we return are all incredibly challenging to pull off but the Tara Theatre team does so effortlessly. With concept and direction led by Tara Theatre’s artistic director Abdul Shayek, it’s the design of the whole experience that allows us to connect with the stories in a variety of ways and rhythms. The most striking feature of the Final Farewell’s design is that it is self-led (or in better words, self-experienced), giving the audience more agency and control over how (much) they engage with the stories and the memories they may evoke from their own personal lives. Bhuchar’s writing does the incredibly difficult job of personifying the accounts of people (and a very charming pet dog) who have moved on from this world, steering us wide away from falling into the typical storytelling tropes of grief and pity when dealing with a deceased subject.
We are able to witness their vibrant personalities and voices, full of a gamut of emotions in their death as they were in life. Deeivya Meir’s sound design supports the writing with a subtle, warm soundtrack that situates the listener into the story’s world, sometimes drawing our attention towards the words whilst at others, reminding us to look at what’s around us. The outdoor walking experience, accompanied by the audio stories, is intriguing as one is able to draw their own connections between the two worlds. Over the course of the walk, there is a feeling of fatigue and tiredness that one accumulates, as well as a sense of “looking out” as you navigate pedestrians, cars and other outdoor interruptions on your journey. Perhaps this serves as a reminder of a constant flux of emotions we find ourselves in everyday, dealing with the mundane and the monumental in the same breath, a result of a vastly impactful global event we’ve all collectively “lived” through but still haven’t quite been able to reconcile with. The experience’s call for participation by the audience through listening, seeing and writing is not just reflective, but also partly therapeutic, reminding them that at the end of day, it really is okay to remember.
To summarize, the Final Farewell is a warm, intimate and thought-provoking celebration of lives lost in the pandemic. Its intricate design and multi-layered exploration of real-life stories from its community members are honest and heart-warming. It serves as a powerful call for greater empathy and mindfulness as we navigate the post-pandemic world, together.
You can sign up for Final Farewell at the Tara Theatre SW18 4ES until 31st July. Learn more and book your tickets at https://taratheatre.com/whats-on/final-farewell/
Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer
Reviewed: 12th July 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★