Last night I saw you. Today I drove through fog on the motorway and in the mist I wondered what would happen if I crashed. And what I would say before I died on the road. And as I’m travelling alone who would be there to hear my last words. And what they would be. I always wanted to say ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ or ‘I love you’ or something honest or something modest. Less is more. But it would probably be something banal. De Gaulle’s last words were ‘J’ai mal la – a la dos!’ – ‘I have a bad back’. Something like that.
The idea that the last words of the famous or infamous might be mundane. Might undermine not underline their reputations as great thinkers or doers. Joan of Arc, lashed to the cross, set on fire, saying ‘I can smell burning’ is the epitome of tragicomic. And that’s where the show sits. Between the notorious and the unknown, the potential and the imagined, fact and fiction. There is a lastness in your work I love. The last line. The last breath. The last time you said I love you. Sometimes I can’t remember the last time I smiled but I smiled through Last Supper. At the last-ness of every moment and every movement that can never be performed again.
You take us on a journey. Like a car in the fog. We don’t know where we’re going but we feel the road beneath us. We are hurtling towards an ending. But we cannot know what our last words will be. I have a book called ‘In search of an ending’ which I’ve never read because I’m worried I’ll be disappointed by how it ends. How do you end a book about endings. How do you end a performance about last words. Literally – who has the last word. As it is, Noel Coward says ‘Goodnight sweethearts’ and you tell me it’s always been that. That it just felt right. Perhaps it just wrote itself. And in some way it’s apposite but anachronistic because it’s a moment of melodrama in a mostly neutral narration. A touch of show in a show that isn’t a show at all.
You eschew the end on and have us sit around tables the same as yours. As my nervous neighbour said at the beginning ‘I don’t know what’s expected of me.’ We sit, divided from friends, guided by a number printed onto rice paper. We sip red wine poured by performers, barefoot but not afraid to meet, to greet, to wait. To wait for us and wait on us. The lights dim. And the music begins. The last moments of last tracks attached to the narrative of last words. Each death connected to the next like a bullet to a gun. Marilyn Monroe painted by Andy Warhol, JFK and Jesus Christ connected by Lee Harvey Oswald trying to stop a bullet with his hands outside the police station. His last words ‘I have nothing else to tell you.’
There are collisions – corrected accents ‘pronounced Van Gogh’, corrected dates, corrected numbers of Saddam Hussein substitutes, corrected accounts of the same story. The chaotic slaying of the Romanovs, the botched assassination of Trotsky, the propaganda surrounding Che Guevara’s last moments and alleged last words. We don’t know where the facts end and the fabrication begins. Fabricated by Reckless Sleepers, by the internet, by the Cuban or the US Government. The imagined landscape of the last words of Hiroshima victims is the most moving. These inventions of domestic life before Little Boy landed mean more because they are what we all say. Every day. A thank you. A sorry. I love you. Something honest. Something modest. Something last. Something that lasts longer than the time it takes to say it. Or write it. Or read it. Or eat it. Goodnight sweethearts.