Words: Michael Whitham
When the end of the world comes, how will you feel about the life you lived and the choices you made? Will you regret the risks you took, or the opportunities you might have missed? How will you feel about being part of the human race when you reflect on the way we as a species treated the planet? These are some of the questions explored in this powerfully performed hour of storytelling, in which the audience are enticed to help writer and performer Sam Ward steer on a journey towards the end of civilization. Ward has a masterful grip of the material and a commanding rapport with the audience, deftly weaving humour and observation amongst the compelling philosophical questions his script asks us to reflect on. The big issues – how do we reckon with man-made catastrophe bringing on the end of the world, for example – are explored with a lightness of touch and smartly balanced with moments of humour as well as smaller, more personal observations. What is that which gives our lives meaning, small and brief as they are in the grand scheme of the cosmos? The poignant, tragic story of aspiring pilot Richard Russell’s first and only flight gives this piece a humanising, haunting heartbeat. If our stories start before we’re even born, is the idea that we have any control of our lives just an illusion? Are the promises made to us by, for example, The American Dream, ultimately a con? And if so, how painful and unfair it is to realise that rather than masters of our destiny, we are in fact – more often than not – victims to our circumstances. What Richard Russel did was reckless and unjustifiable, but his story is a powerful, and mournful one. Perhaps he saw his life stretching out ahead of him and realised it wasn’t going to go the way he had hoped, and so he wanted a chance to soar, just once.