The Last One

Zoe Alker
Arcola Theatre

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Rebecca Hyde as Bess Credit: Steve Gregson
Rebecca Hyde as Bess Credit: Steve Gregson

A tale of closeness, community and climate change, The Last One is an affecting piece of theatre that neither preaches nor lectures but still gets its message across with power.

Set in an unnamed, theoretically unremarkable seaside town, the monologue follows the life of Bess Malone, beginning in the aftermath of a single dodgy decision that turns out to be life-changing. As Bess, Rebecca Hyde gives a perfectly judged performance, brash and full of attitude but always with an underlying warmth that becomes more evident as her character moves from outsider to becoming part of the heart of the community. As with this whole production it’s the little things that count with her posture and posturing changing as Bess grows up and finds her way.

Her town isn’t unremarkable, and neither is she, but unfortunately it takes a failing climate for the town to realise what it’s lost—how great and freeing it can be to have a normal day in an average place. It’s a play about climate change, sure, but it’s not a play set in an obscure version of the future that’s hard to envisage; it’s a script rooted in the everyday and how those small things will change long before the big and terrifying things follow.

What makes Zoe Alker’s script so effective is that Bess isn’t a climate warrior, she’s just a mouthy young woman who through an unlikely friendship with the last ice cream man sees the world through a different lens: how fast the ice cream is melting, the merging of the seasons, the best places to park. It’s also peppered with relatable humour and a few carefully chosen asides that keep the tone irreverent, even when increasingly dark.

Olivia Jamieson’s design also allows for freedom of the imagination, the sandy beach moving from welcoming to barren, aided by foreshadowing projections representing the people of the town.

The question for the audience, therefore, is will they remain concerned but passive observers or start making a change? Who will play the Match of the Day tune from a tinny tannoy if we let ice cream van professionals go extinct? It’s the little things that make a difference.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston

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