The Last Bubble - Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Review (Black Light Theatre Company)

Photo credit: Black Light Theatre Company

'The Last Bubble’ fosters a frustrating atmosphere from the start. It considers the ways a group of people affect each other when faced with a difficult situation. In this case, it is Rhys’ battle with cancer.

Rhys becomes withdrawn and overwhelmed. At the same time, he is surrounded with a bunch of extremely exhausting and irritating people. They get annoyed with him, and confront him about his behaviour. His friends, loud football supporters, take few steps to comfort him. They are quick to fight and shout, and wonder what Rhys has got to worry about. At this stage, Rhys hasn’t shown them the doctor’s letter confirming bad news. The extent to which people’s 
behaviour is based on very little understanding is effectively considered.

When they discover the reasons for Rhys’ demeanour, the play assesses their value in Rhys’ life.

They stop blaming Rhys for the most part. However, I did not find this to be as hopeful a change as the play was intending it to be. Why must it take a cancer diagnosis for people to be kind to someone who is struggling? Rhys, for all they know at the start, could have been dealing with a mental illness without the cancer diagnosis. The visible presentation was similar. A lot of people with different problems would have had those characters wearing them down for years with little hope of compassion.

This production does not attempt to portray illness as something you can push through if only you have determination. This is refreshing at a time when videos of ill people smiling through their entirety are adored by the internet. They don’t present viewers with effective ways of coping. Rhys’ pain and stress are unapologetically portrayed. So is his isolation. The other characters struggle with their feelings as they are affected by Rhys’ problems. No-one visits him in hospital.

Towards the end, it is said that we are all constantly blowing bubbles, and that each one eventually reaches the sky. However, it is uncertain whether this bubble does reach the sky. Rhys dies alone in hospital with little support. The bubble that Callum, Rhys’ friend, blows is that he has slowly built Rhys’ coffin to honour him with. The play leaves us to decide how hopeful this ending is.

This play is well acted and the characters are both charismatic and off-putting. However, the actors struggle with scenes where characters talk heart to heart or are supportive. These take on a sickly sweet, forced feel.

Overall, this is a play that offers more questions than answers about to what to think about other people when someone’s dealing with hardships. Its ideas need to be polished as its uncertainty sometimes seems unintentional.

Verdict: ★★★

‘The Last Bubble’ runs till August 17, 20.35, at theSpace on North Bridge.

By James Sullivan


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