Brimming With Hope: ‘Tell Me How It Ends’ Review

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Tell Me How It Ends
Image credit: Andrew AB Photography

★★★★

‘Can you not spoil it this time!’ It’s the late 1980s when serial book-spoiler Aster (Emmy Stonelake) and HIV patient Marc (Luke Sookdeo) strike up an unlikely friendship. Tell Me How It Ends follows the highs and lows of their relationship, as they navigate stigma and attitudes towards the queer community in a time of political strife. Written by Tasha Dowd, and performed at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, it is a witty, unstoppable performance that will have you laughing and sobbing in equally devastating measures.

Bursting onto the stage, and with relentless energy throughout, Aster is introduced as the bubbly lesbian volunteer who visits ill HIV/AIDS patients in her local Liverpool hospital. Marc is one of her moodier patients, but Aster is willing to fight the battle with a tirade of chatter to fill any silence. And what a battle it is. Charmingly undeterred, the audience are left in stitches with her well-meaning chit-chat and retorts as the silence descends to bickering and at some point melts into friendship. The pacing of the performance is excellent, from quips, to dancing around the room, to a dose or two of the heavier topics.

Tell Me How It Ends is punctuated by all of the 80s classics, and despite the matter at hand the performance is uplifting as it dissects the mood of the times. From the state of the government to the uncertainty of scientists and doctors regarding the AIDS epidemic, the performance captures the fear of the 80s and 90s. In doing so it deftly handles topics with nuance, not shying away from discussing the past and drawing parallels with the present.  

A busy, homely set flits between a hospital room and Aster’s flat, with lighting stepping in to help emphasise scenes. Occasionally, the fourth wall is broken to comedic effect and is done with fluidity to keep the audience in on the jokes. Cleverly directed, the performance is dynamic, bounding between scenes, racing along to the epic soundtrack of the 80s.

The perfect mix of raw emotion, warmth and riotous chemistry of the Stonelake and Sookdeo brings well-balanced humour to slot around the more poignant moments. Covering almost every emotion in the book, the thread that binds the performance is the embracing of camp and sheer joy of being alive. At its core a tale of friendship, Tell Me How It Ends is emphatic in its celebration of the power of community.

In this deftly written, thought-provoking show, Dowd encapsulates the power of hope through a bubbling and wholehearted script. Tell Me How It Ends is well worth a watch—and just as good if the ending is spoiled anyway.

Words by Hannah Goldswain


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