Review: Now This Is Not The End, Arcola Theatre

“Everybody told us to forget about it. Now we’re all dying and everybody wants us to remember”

Eva’s memory is failing, daughter Susan recorded some of her recollections of her youth in Berlin but the cassette has gone missing and her daughter Rosie couldn’t care less, having adopted Berlin as her new home, withdrawing from the very family connection that her mother is trying to preserve. Skittering between London and Berlin and over the course of more than a decade, Rose Lewenstein’s Now This Is Not The End is a slight but serious piece of drama that eloquently explores how we’re moulded by our families, no matter how much emotional or physical distance we try to put between us.

Katie Lewis’ production is strongest when these three women are interacting, demonstrating that even though they’re trying the opposite, they’re carrying so much of their family legacy down from one generation to the next. Brigit Forsyth’s Eva subtly suggesting that her aloofness isn’t just a symptom of the early stages of her condition, Wendy Nottingham’s brittle Susan trying and failing not to repeat the lessons of the past, and Jasmine Blackborow’ spiky Rosie rather achingly looking for a sense of her own identity in a world with no easy answers.

Lewenstein conjures the emotional world of this family excellently with her writing – full of the ease and exasperation that comes hand in hand with challenging family members and cleverly extended by the three male characters, – Bernard Lloyd’s irascible Arnold fussing around Eva, Andrew Whipp’s Sudoku-obsessed Paul ever-protective of Susan and Daniel Donskoy’s beguilingly handsome Sebastian, unwilling to let Rosie go. They’re each subsidiary roles though, they mainly serve as adjuncts to the woman they’re attached to, and there are other moments too where one wishes Lewenstein had stretched her play a little more.

Eva’s family history, as a half-Jewish girl living in Berlin in the 1930s, is a fascinating thing indeed in the morally complex hints of experience that eventually spill forth and it’s hard not to want more, especially in light of her grand-daughter’s increasing connection there. But to be left wanting more isn’t always a terrible thing and in the spare space of Holly Pigott’s design and the stark modernity of Prema Mehta’s lighting, there’s no doubting this is not the end of an interesting career for Lewenstein.

Running time: 75 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 27th June

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