Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Sense of an Ending at Theatre503
Ginger Hibiscus | Sense of an Ending at Theatre503
Ginger Hibiscus | Sense of an Ending at Theatre503
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20 May REVIEW: Sense of an Ending at Theatre503

Rwanda, 1999, and the population is still coming to terms with a genocide perpetrated half a decade ago. An unarguably awful occurrence, it’s one of the – thankfully – rare occasions where a population can accurately be described as having been decimated. Decimated. Meaning more than 1 in 10 members of the country’s population were killed, all in just a few weeks of April 1994. That’s more than eight hundred thousand men, women and children. As the world looked on, a group of the predominantly Hutu ruling elite set out to eradicate the Rwandan Tutsi population, killing any Tutsis, moderate Hutus or anyone belonging to any other ethnic grouping that stood in their way.

SOAE Dress © Jack Sain 2015-0845If, as humans, we learn by heeding the lessons of the past, then we have to remember. We have to examine what happened, what the international community should, and could, have done, and we have to get over our squeamishness about the brutality experienced by so many people to actually talk about what happened. Sense of an Ending opens that conversation, and just over 20 years on pushes genocide back into our collective consciousness.

When a New York Times journalist goes in search of a story to resurrect his career, he ends up in a Rwandan prison, interviewing a pair of Hutu nuns charged with being complicit in crimes against humanity and homicide during the events of April 1994. But in a conflict where the line between right and wrong was never clear, and responsibility wasn’t always easy to attribute, can he – and the courts – come to the right conclusion?

Contributing to both improving the awareness and dialogue around the Rwandan genocide, as well as asking important questions around the degree to which people are – and should be – held accountable not only for their actions, but for actions they could have, but didn’t take, Ken Urban’s play, Sense of an Ending offers more than a little food for thought. In equal parts challenging and harrowing, slick production values and strong acting lend the play a critical air of authenticity, and the way Cecilia Carey’s set accommodates both action and passive observation serves as a reflection of the different roles everyone – yes, everyone – played during the genocide.

The decision, carried both through Ken Urban’s script and Jonathan O’Boyle’s direction not to attempt to depict violence on stage is certainly the right decision – the only decision – avoiding presenting a level of violence that would be unacceptable to any audience, whilst refusing to do the victims – both alive and dead – the disservice of diluting what happened. But it also swings the focus of the play away from a nitty-gritty, almost gratuitous, recollection of the unimaginable, and towards reflection and introspection, giving space to consider the questions around morality, responsibility and participation.

SOAE Dress © Jack Sain 2015-0914Benefitting from such nuanced production, Urban’s script develops well, progressing much like the dawn unfurling of a terrible butterfly’s wings; as they open up, and the story begins, only the silhouette, or the vague facts are visible, but as those wings unfold and day breaks, the colours are picked out, and the details are filled in, details that had always been there but that were just never quite visible. Beautifully crafted and emotionally astute, it’s a script that even with very little action is utterly compelling, honing in on specifics without ever losing sight of the wider picture.

It feels entirely wrong to rave about Sense of an Ending, as the only conceivable response is still and silent contemplation. But as a play screaming with raw intensity, and the ability to provoke such a powerful emotional response, it’s very difficult not to. It is, in so many ways, a play that’ll leave its mark on both your head and your heart.

For tickets and information:
Venue: Theatre503
Dates: 12th May – 6th June 2015
Images: Jack Sain

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here