End to End

Mon 13th – Sat 25th August 2012


Ella Griffiths

at 00:19 on 23rd Aug 2012



‘End to End’ is the kind of play that leaves you wishing it were possible to bottle it and market it as a heart-warming and uplifting tonic. Following the journey of three women from Land’s End to John O’Groats, completed in 18 days and involving numerous wacky varieties of transport provided by charitable strangers, this unique production is a moving reminder of our desire for human connection.

In amongst an array of endearing little touches, the most rewarding aspect of this series of personal stories is the level of audience interaction. From sending a voyaging bottle containing their hopes and dreams through the crowd, to feeling the wind on our faces and hearing the clinking of teacups as they describe a memorable breakfast, we are given the chance to share the special moments in their journey; at the end, we even receive a postcard inviting us to describe our own adventures, further immersing us in this magical atmosphere. While this might sound mildly sickly, the Gramophones Theatre Company save their show from treacly kitsch by conveying a real sense of wholesome goodness in their interest in understanding strangers. The three actresses (Hannah Stone, Kirsty Guest and Ria Ashcroft) all sparkle with energy as truly engaging performers when recounting their various challenges and highlights, such as energetically discussing the beauty of hitchhiking.

The hazy exquisiteness of the whole play was made doubly effective by the ramshackle lighting and poignant use of multi-media images. A flickering projector showing photographs and videos is mesmerising and adds a new dimension to their stories, especially in the gorgeous microlite scene constructed from gliding videos projected on a swaying canopy. The lighting, dimmed by holding up a stick with a cardboard square over a lamp in a likeably patchwork fashion, is evocative and subtle, while the soft guitar music infuses each documentary snippet with added impact. Despite flirting with occasionally mawkish sentimentality and forced attempts at seeming excessively profound or overly earnest, ‘End to End’ still manages to retain its sense of emotional authenticity. In a lovely set filled with homemade maps and bicycle paraphernalia, these natural, witty and loveable ladies have created an entirely special testament to the magic of travelling.


Imogen O'Sullivan

at 01:30 on 23rd Aug 2012



The back room of Bannerman’s Bar is an evocative space, perfect for The Gramophones to recreate their real-life travelling adventure, and their staging is an innovative use of the space available. Blackboards, anoraks, helmets and maps litter the set as mementos of their trip; a crowded collage of people and stories. Sensitively deployed multimedia tools enhance the honest and emotional recollections that, in their sincerity, re-tune your heartstrings.

The friendship of these three young women is as real as their stories; they don’t always get on, they know each other’s faults, but their friendship endures. Their journey comes to life in the voices of the people they have met; fleeting encounters with strangers on the fringe of your life are imbued with boundless potential by this talented cast. Hannah Stone embodies pure sincerity and sweet enthusiasm, understandably struggling at moments of the trip and expressing the reasonable fears that many will empathise with. As the undisputed leader, Ria Ashcroft comes across as exciting, adventurous and ambitious, and Kristy Guest’s childlike, wide-eyed innocence brings a lump to your throat as she reads out a text from her mum.

Throughout the performance, The Gramophones literally take their audience along for the ride. Some will find the moment when seeds are ‘planted’ in the hands of the audience cloying, but the section when we are encouraged to shut our eyes and imagine, clutching cushions and blankets as an artificial breeze plays across the seats and we hear real people admit what reminds them of home, really touched me – a response made apparent to the performers as they wrung out my tear-soaked cushion. Multimedia technology is imaginatively used, with projections and recordings sharing every moment of their trip in real detail. Unison speech is well timed and powerful, and the piece is lit up by a succession of exciting visual images. Their group interpretation of a bicycle ride is hilarious and endearing, a mode of transport celebrated by Ashcroft as indicative of self-powered female emancipation. It is patently obvious that a huge amount of effort has been put into developing the most original and imaginative staging for each and every key moment, and this attention to detail highlights the impressive and inventive skill of the company.

This piece makes the point that, ironically, you can sometimes be the most honest to strangers, and proves its own theory as a fleeting moment of open and honest connection. The hardened cynic inside me wants to criticise this piece for its naive over-sentimentality, but in the case of ‘End to End’ I say to this cynic, ‘GET OUT.’ Despite occasional moments of saccharine dialogue, I found their idealism deeply moving and I was not the only one in tears – the actors themselves struggle to hold back the waves of emotion evoked by shared memories. Something inexplicable about this show really affected me; perhaps the powerful exploration of pushing outside your comfort zone and placing your trust in strangers. Postcards from the people they met indicate how many have been inspired by their adventure and I left inspired too. The Gramophones originally wanted to create a piece of theatre about 20-something women, but instead ended up creating a show about everyone, about faith in basic humanity, and about what ties us all to the place we call home.


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