Tuesday, May 28

Last Rites – Shoreditch Town Hall

Devised and performed by Ramesh Meyyappan, this 65-minute work covers a broad swath of one family’s history. Beginning with one man’s arrival in India, accompanied by his young son, on a journey to lay his estranged father to rest, Meyyappan, the solitary performer, alone on stage throughout the show but for the most minimal of props, embodies all three generations.

His performance is physically impressive and well directed by co-creator George Mann. An early comedic interlude depicting a series of cooking mishaps especially allows Meyyappan’s gifts to shine. Although rife with comedic moments the overall tone of the show is sobering, and it takes its subject matter seriously. As Meyyappan performs rituals over the body that is in turns both his own and his imagination’s, audiences are invited to reflect on their own mortality, ancestry, and legacy. A particular emphasis is put on the role of hands, in passing down history, as powerful instruments of violence, prayer, and, in the show’s most hopeful moments, visual language. Sound Designer and Composer, Akintayo Akinbode scores this performance beautifully, sonically supporting Meyyappan’s motion onstage as mime, dance, prayer, and sign coalesce into something truly captivating and at times overwhelming. His greatest performative feat however is not in conveying distinct personalities but in physicalizing specific ages of man. Mann’s directorial skill is seen most in the effortful transitions that accompany these temporal shifts.

Photo: Jack Offord

Ali Hunter’s lighting design is exciting and transforms the somewhat awkward venue into a compelling dramatic setting wherein Chris Harrison’s video and projection design builds an imaginative play space. Filling the backdrop with lights, colors, words, and symbols, Harrison provides a virtual set, emotional tone, stylized violence, interpretation, and inventive visualization.

A work very much concerned with the effort it takes to communicate, the challenges that stymie us in our efforts to express ourselves, and the humility required to try anyway, Mann and Meyyappan ask us to consider what sons owe to their fathers and what fathers owe to their sons.

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 25th January 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.