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  • Xi Ye

Review - The Last One

Arcola Theatre

Playing until 27th January 2024

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When Bess (Rebecca Hyde) stole from an ice cream van at the beach, she is forced into an unexpected friendship with the van’s owner, Brian, one of the two last ice cream men in the country. This story tells the highlights and the inevitable extinction of this profession and how it is tied to the livelihood of the place in which it operates.

Bess has moved from various different jobs and eventually earned her place as Brian’s “apprentice” when she attempted to steal from him. Like the many jobs before, Bess did not think this job would pique her interest. Nonetheless, she learns the charms of the job and how it will soon go extinct and that the word extinction doesn’t only apply to animals that lived in the past. While the audience never got to see Brian, we are treated to a glimpse of his character through Bess’s recollections of him, who despite almost always just part of the canvas in the background, he is always there at the major events and part of the memory of this seaside town.

While the narrative is centred around Brian and how the ice cream van business is a dying breed, these are merely conduits to the bigger picture. The central focus is about the disappearing people, culture and places to environmental damage and a lack of recognition and preservation of these apparently mundane things. Although the script hooks the audience through its vivid description of Brian’s life, his gentle nature and serving as Bess’s mentor and friend, the tie-in to the bigger theme is not as well embedded. The impact of the environment on the town pales in comparison to Bess’s sense of loss when Brian died and the desire to keep his trade alive and remembered. Within the constraints of an hour-long play, the writer (Zoe Alker) and director (Imy Wyatt Corner) ought to be applauded for creating a character as well painted as Brian, especially when this character doesn’t make a physical appearance; however, a clearer link and continuation in emphasis ought to be considered to better balance the characters and their contribution to the environmental theme.

Hyde plays a mischievous youth that has no clear goal in life. She may be a personification of the people who live in the town, who never even noticed the presence of Brian and the other disappearing landscapes until they are nearly gone. In this one actor play, Hyde portrays a playful, sarcastic and overtime, a sentimental character. What is attempted in this play is tricky; while there is an obvious desire for humour and majority of these would land well with the audience, some don’t quite hit the mark, especially when tied in with heavier messages. From a personal perspective, certain artistic choices such as picking up the sand and let them sift through the actor’s fingers and uncovering the key left by Brian for Bess, especially at the start of the play, are rather odd insertions and could distract audiences without adding value to the overall story or performance.

Despite the fact that the impact of environmental effects doesn’t come through as strongly as I would have liked, The Last One successfully portrays two well-described and likeable characters, each highlighting that sometimes it is the ordinary people that make a place special.


Playwright: Zoe Alker

Director: Imy Wyatt Corner

Designer: Olivia Jamieson

Producer: Rachel Thomas

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