Theo Toksvig Stewart’s first play, Endless Second, candidly deals with a heterosexual relationship and the intricate nature of first love. Stewart’s simple and honest arrangement presents a relatable narrative in a manner which is both humorous and confrontational.
It was well received at The Edinburgh Fringe 2019. Originally written for the stage, it was commissioned and adapted for Radio 4 in 2021. Timely for the #metoo campaign and increasing awareness of the importance that we – as a society – as an individual – identify and name and tackle controversial behaviours. It is not enough to just say, “I am sorry you felt hurt.”
The central topic in Endless Second is harrowing yet it is delivered in an almost gentle and sensitive way, with the use of a linear time-frame and interspersed scenes involving ‘friends’ and reflection to dissipate the increasing tension triggered by the traumatic event. Sitting in amongst the performance, seats lining the studio walls, forces the audience into the lives on stage, yet in a friendly way. It is like you’re back at University, doing shots in the Union Bar, walking with trepidation into your first lecture, meeting your seminar classmates in the first week, and that all important, life changing moment when you make eye contact with that one significant other… it is timeless and will be relatable to anyone who has loved or lost, dealt with the complexity of intimacy and felt regret, for actions or inactions.
Described as a “play about consent within a relationship”, the realistic interpersonal interaction between the actors and dramatic tension helps to encourage retrospection with two excellent and electric performances from Danielle Hollreiser and Charlie Bird. Stewart’s script contains believable dialogue, the unusual use of vocalized stage directions and mirroring and echoing, adding to the feeling that you’re not sure what is real, imagined, or whose perspective you can hear. The most difficult scene to watch was managed carefully and left interpretation of events up to the audience: how reliable a narrator is M, or W? Are we hearing their honest thoughts? Or a reflection of their youthful hopes or fears? How much is an interpretative description of what did or did not happen? It leaves you with an unsettling but necessary set of questions to consider.
Overall, it offers a complex storyline, highly successful with seamless shifting perspectives, which act to engage and provoke the audience to contemplate the lives of these two young love birds. Directed by Mark Winstanley, this is another exciting production with the Queen’s English Theatre Company. The immersive experience is heightened by the staging: set in the low-lit studio of the CC Amstel Theatre with a small audience. Rose Fawbert Mills 25th March 2023