Sidney has spent 30 years with the company, working his way up from the warehouse to wearing a suit, but now it’s all over. Everyone is being laid off, including Sidney.
Last Day may have been filmed before the pandemic, but Gareth Bierley and Fiona Creese’s film, made with 30 young performers from the University of Roehampton’s Drama, Theatre and Performance Department (itself under threat of cuts because of cost savings being implemented by the administration to arts and humanities) comes into sharp focus at a moment of mass redundancies in many industries. It lands at a time when the pandemic has highlighted questions about working life and how we really want to live, and made us fearful of the future awaiting the young.
*Stills from *138: Last Day.
Last Day addresses these issues and it does it in a manner that eschews sentimentality even as it addresses the loss of manufacturing, the dignity of work and how destablising it is when we lose a job. It comes with a surreal and sometimes sinister edge including a sock puppet board meeting, a heightened sense of time passing, and a real punch in the way it shows that job losses can turn people into living ghosts.
It’s appropriate that a piece that is so much about time and longevity of service and which interrogates purpose in our working lives should be made by The People Show, that shape shifting company which since 1966 have been creating theatre and live performance in radical ways. Last Day is the company’s 138th piece of work. That’s 54 years of remarkable creative endeavour which deserves to be marked by more than a carriage clock.
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