The Last Show Before We Die was created, written and performed by Mary Higgins and Ell Potter, or Ell and Mary as we know the versions of themselves they present on-stage.
They are former lovers, and current (still) best friends, housemates and work partners, whose previous collaborations include FITTER and HOTTER. The latter was the last piece of live theatre this reviewer saw before the first lock-down of the pandemic, which was already making its mark when audience members were encouraged to jump up and dance at the end of the show, but to do it without moving around the theatre or coming into contact with anyone.
The history the two performers share (with each other, not with Covid, or me) is central to this show, and obvious whether you know about their previous projects or not, as we find them here at a crossroads, considering going their separate ways to explore their lives in ways which aren’t built around each other.
That is what makes this “the last show”. It is their last show together, prompting a series of pieces around different kinds of endings. These are informed, as in their previous work together, by recorded interviews with, amongst others, an addict, a midwife, a child, and a grandparent, in a soundtrack by Tom Foskett-Barnes.
There is an improvisational feel to proceedings, as everything including the show itself gets discussed and deconstructed. This helps bring you into the duo’s world and connect these disparate endings, an attitude which was undoubtedly successful judging by the number of people who left in tears at the idea of two people they didn’t know not sharing a kitchen any more. But then Higgins and Potter are seasoned pros at this, projecting vulnerability and personality amidst a tightly rehearsed series of movement and dialogue pieces directed by Sammy Glover and choreographed by Ted Rogers.
That, Foskett-Barnes’ soundscapes and the lighting by David Doyle keep the energy high and weird, aided by the venue itself, which looked like we were under a family-sized UFO. However the inherent cabaret-ness of the show make the parts of the show easy to identify and rank, making this experience simultaneously lesser and greater than the sum of its parts.
Heartfelt and energetic throughout, The Last Show Before We Die will make you laugh and admire the craft on display (some of it of the arts and crafts variety) on its way to ending which makes you care about its protagonists and hope they do well. If theatre is meant to be an experience, this was undoubtedly that.
The Last Show Before We Die plays until 27th August at Summerhall Roundabout, and tickets can be found at: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/last-show-before-we-die
Reviewer: Oliver Giggins
Reviewed: 21st August 2023
North West End UK Rating: