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Endings review at Old Market Theatre, Brighton – ‘highly personal’

Tamara Saulwick in Endings at Old Market Theatre, Brighton. Photo: Brighton Festival/Adam Weatherley Tamara Saulwick in Endings at Old Market Theatre, Brighton. Photo: Brighton Festival/Adam Weatherley
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Love and sex generally get more stage time, but the most intimate moment we will share with anyone might in fact be our death.

In Endings, a piece inspired by her father, Australian performance-maker Tamara Saulwick focuses on the point of departure: the final, sawing breaths of the dying, and the stories of the living who hold their hands, speak softly into their ears, and meet their eyes as the light fades.

Blending theatre, song and sound art, Endings is a sharply conceived, starkly staged and strikingly controlled performance softened by love. Seven weighted pendulum lights slide or swing across a black stage. It is empty but for an assortment of reel to reel tape recorders and turntables, from which we hear fragments of interviews, or sometimes the chirrup and chew of empty tape. With astonishing presence, Saulwick speaks to, or in time with, the manipulated recordings, breathing life back into dead conversations.

On stage with Saulwick are songwriter Paddy Mann and sound artist Peter Knight. The former’s contemporary folk songs spring up at surprising moments like flowers from a grave. Knight’s ominous bass notes and splintering noises suggest darker energy surges, and soundtrack a moment of Lynchian horror in which Saulwick wrings her hands and darts demonically beneath a strobe.

Endings is a receptacle for the tremendous power of loving relationships lived right to the end. But it offers no false consolations. After a few empty revolves, the last sound is of a stylus lifting conclusively off a record.

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Brilliantly staged and highly personal Australian show about letting go and holding on