Theatre review: The End Of The World, Summerhall, Edinburgh

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THE end of the world was going well, when I had to tiptoe away and leave it.

The End of The World (for One Night Only)

Summerhall, Edinburgh


Much longer than advertised, this one-off event designed to celebrate the Mayan prediction of the apocalypse emerged as a startlingly rich sequence of music and theatre, played out across the thrilling, rambling arts lab that is Summerhall.

When I left, the audience of 150 or so was gathered in the main hall, listening to three new short pieces by young classical composers Hanna Tuulikki, Colin Broom and Gareth Williams. Broom’s piece, Post-human, beautifully played by John Harris and the Red Note Ensemble, weaved fragments of speech and surges of string music together to create a tremendously powerful meditation on the fragmentary evidence of our existence the human race may one day leave behind.

We had found our way there, though, in four or five smaller groups, each led in a different sequence through space after space, lecture theatre after library, where a cast of six actors – backed by a young ensemble of more than 20 – would each tell us a different story, set in Edinburgh on the day that the world ends.

Shadowy figures fretted and moaned in corridors and courtyards, and in the rooms we heard stories of love and death, youth, old age and mathematics, all interrupted by sudden oblivion. In the end, it seemed like an explosion not only of creative invention, but of beauty; never to be repeated, maybe, but full of the kind of promise that makes the end of the world seem unlikely, after all.

Joyce McMillan