The last time I saw the madly-talented Mark Arends anywhere in the vicinity of the Everyman and Playhouse, he was terrifying the absolute bejesus out of me as Winston Smith in Headlong’s 1984 a few years back. Which is why I was keen to check out yet another side to this versatile, creative Liverpool-born performer, who is also the brains behind children’s theatre company Make Mend and Do.
At the End of Everything Else is the company’s second show, a follow on from its debut Something Very Far Away. It’s ‘carbon friendly’, which means most of the electricity required is produced by on-stage pedal power. Through film, animation and puppetry, the 35-minute show explores themes of love and loss, and attempts to explain to its young audience how the plastic items we use today have an impact on the environment, and will do for a very long time to come.
It tells the tale of a young girl, Icka, who lives with her father and is quite bored of her routine until a little bird she names Tito comes into her life. They become friends, but when Tito fails to appear at her window one morning, Icka is compelled to find him.
It crams a lot into the short performance time, and whimsically touches on themes of death, sadness and loss. But like any good fairy tale, it calls on some willing audience participation – and there’s an exhilarating joy to the result, what is undoubtedly the show’s highlight.
Although our pedalling performers had to remain under cover of darkness to allow for the projection of the film and puppetry that enabled the tale to be told – as well as the rather lovely dramatic climax of the tale – as an adult, there was a sense that the large Everyman stage space wasn’t quite intimate enough for a performance like At the End of Everything Else. However, its magic worked for members of the young audience, who were only too delighted to get involved and work together to embrace the show’s themes.