We all know queueing can be a nightmare, but things are taken to the utmost extreme in Sonya Kelly’s new black comedy, The Last Return. It’s the final night of the hottest show in town, and tickets are sold out. Five people wait in line hoping to secure a last minute return ticket; but who deems themselves most worthy and how far are they willing to go to be successful?
Kelly’s writing is as wickedly sharp as one would expect, peppering tragedy atop hilarity while never losing sight of the absurdity at play. Sara Joyce’s involvement as director, having previously paired with Kelly’s on her other work Once Upon a Bridge, also pays off dividends for the production as she realises the writer’s vision wonderfully.
This is ultimately a play about space, territory, and entitlement, themes emphasised by the clinical, box-like nature of Traverse 1’s stage and the set within, which create a claustrophobic atmosphere that inevitably heightens emotions. The subtlest movement feels like it belongs in a game of chess, and to this end, Joyce is aided by Junk Ensemble’s Jessica & Megan Kennedy. It’s all suitably gripping, adding a nuance to proceedings that belies the humour at work on the surface.
This extends further to the cast as well who deliver delightful performances through their cutting barbs, backhanded pleasantries, and Machiavellian ploys. Bosco Hogan’s literary professor is pompous yet understated, while Fiona Bell’s accountant is ostentatious and over-dramatic; their early back and forths offer a brilliant foundation that each subsequent arrival builds upon until it descends into utter madness.
Anna Healy is especially phenomenal as the Ticket Person who serves as the neutral arbiter of the ridiculousness at hand. Her lines are minimal, but always secures a laugh from the audience. It is Naima Swaleh though, who, despite being silent for the vast majority of the 80-minute runtime, almost steals the show in the closing moments.
The fact that the show in question is ‘Oppenheimer’s Return to Hindenburg’ foreshadows where things are headed. The Last Return goes to some truly dark places in which it lingers just long enough to leave a mark before being reeled back in by some absurd comment or witticism. It’s a hard line to toe, but all involved maintain it excellently.
Moments never overstay their welcome, leading to a spectacular piece of theatre that earns its heart-warming finale, suitably reminding us of life’s bigger picture and the unifying power of art.