Walking across the dimly lit stage to our seat, chairs are sprawled, an unmade bed contains truth, and coffee-machines await use. From the onset, the audience of Coincidences at the End of Time is absorbed into the play. Poignantly, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go lies on a leather-arm chair, as we are immersed into Peter and Rachel’s journey through their failed relationship.
Perth director/writer Scott McArdle’s piece follows Peter (Nick Maclaine) as he awaits the apocalypse. Having come to terms with his inevitable doom, he sips coffee alone in his favourite café. That is until his ex-girlfriend Rachel (Arielle Gray) bursts through the door. They attempt to utilise their final hours of life to re-live the highs and lows of their relationship, and account for its eventual demise.
As if watching a couples attempt to explain where it all went wrong is not engrossing enough, Coincidences’ apocalyptic context heightens the raw, truth of the ordeal. To McArdle’s acclaim ‘the end of the world’ setting allows his characters to be brutally honest with each other as they no longer have anything to lose– an honesty that defines the play’s brilliance.
Coincidences’ journey from their nostalgic meeting, to the ‘best times’ of Peter and Rachel’s relationship, the beginnings of its failure, and the current reality of their looming apocalyptic end is seamless. Beautiful lighting changes, brilliant writing, and impeccable acting makes these sequences feel like a hyperreal dream. Rather than a stringent non-linear jump that is hard to keep up with on a single stage, the audience delves into this couple’s past and present as if experiencing it alongside them, as layer upon layer of truth is exposed.
Nick Maclaine’s portrayal of Peter is flawless: the coffee-sipping young writer, who is simultaneously endearing, funny, deep and somewhat pretentious. His complexity is furthered in his relationship with Rachel, where he exudes a ‘goofy’ charm yet remains the more frustrated, ‘type-A,’ of the two. The transformation of Peter adds to his engaging character, as he begins to accept the arrival of Rachel as an opportunity for explanation not merely the worst way to end his final hours.
Following her great work in Black Swan Theatre’s production of Picnic at Hanging Rock, Arielle Gray is brilliant. She exudes Rachel’s vivacious confidence and playfulness, yet also adds a vulnerability and ‘realness’ to her portrayal. Rachel emerges as a multifaceted lead, who experiences an array of challenges facing many young women.
The play offers a rare opportunity to reflect upon how we might behave, how truthful our reasons may be, if we attempted to explain a relationship’s demise as the world crashed in around us. This unique setting allows for Rachel and Peter to let the truth out as they remember how it felt, how they wanted it to feel, or how it now feels looking back, to be in their relationship. The play’s exploration of the connection between memory and self – what was, what never was, and what could have been – adds to its maturity. Furthermore, it exposes another rarity in a relationship breakdown: an honest look at each side of the story, blatantly reinforcing that a couple’s experiences are so individually subjective.
Coincidences at the End of Time is a brutally honest, joyful, and heartbreaking exploration of a relationship’s demise. The engaging and painful journey is heightened by the raw moments that come to define the couple’s time together: not the grand gestures of Hollywood blockbusters gone by, but the small moments that epically stick and poignantly remind you of your past love. The song, the book, the food, the place that forces their memory, or even that café you can no longer enter.
Ultimately, Coincidences at the End of Time is both a unique and universal experience. Whilst the audience will leave feeling they have been immersed in an overtly private exploration of one couple’s relationship, this journey will simultaneously resonate with anyone who has ever lost love and attempted to explain why.
Coincidences at the End of Time ends July 2nd at Subiaco Art Centre.
Purchase tickets via the Ticketek website.