The scribblings and sketches of Miriam Gillinson, arts journalist
'Sense of an Ending' review or 'I can't believe my eyes.'
'Sense of and Ending', Ken Urban Theatre 503, 20th May 2015 Written for Time Out
‘Sense of an Ending’ is so intense that, in between each scene, you can hear the audience gulp for air. We are in Rwanda, where New York Times journalist Paul has come to interview two Hutu nuns who have been charged with war crimes, carried out during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Paul is convinced of their innocence, but when he encounters a Tutsi survivor, that conviction falters. Who or what can one trust when investigating a genocide so brutal (an estimated 800,000 Tutsi were killed) that it defies human belief?
This might sound like a gruelling affair but Jonathan O’Boyle’s production is so beautifully calibrated that it passes in a flash. The all-black cast, the teasing music and the elegant lighting design never feel strained – yet each component fits together with consummate precision.
Cecilia Carey’s superlative set allows Ken Urban’s fine play (receiving its UK premiere) to shimmer with meaning. When the actors are not speaking, they sit behind a mosaic of coloured panels. As they walk behind these panels, the colour of their costumes shifts. We are gently reminded of the subjectivity of truth and the way our perspective on these characters changes according to their position.
Ben Onwukwe compels as the NY journalist who struggles to believe in the reality he finds. Akiya Henry and Lynette Clarke are superbly slippery as the Catholic nuns, villains one minute and victims the next. Abubakar Salim’s guard charms and terrifies, while Kevin Golding – who plays a survivor of the slaughter – haunts the play, rendered half-human by what he has seen. All the characters struggle to find themselves in such unfathomable surroundings. As Sister Alice puts it so succinctly and so sadly: ‘In this world, I cannot be who I was.’