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‘Especially pertinent at present’: LAST DAY – People Show (Online review)

Making a timely appearance online, People Show’s Last Day (which is written by Gareth Brierley and Fiona Creese) chronicles the ‘end of an era’ for Sidney Williams (Tyrone Huggins) – a HR manager for a sock factory in east London. As Sidney retires after spendng 30 years with the same firm, the bittersweet day coincides with news from the management about the economic viability of the workforce…

Rather than take a naturalistic approach to the subject matter, director Brierley uses theatrical flair to show Sidney’s state of mind as he patrols the premises one last time. Sidney himself rarely speaks out loud, but Huggins can be heard throughout, his narration voicing the HR manager’s conflicted feelings.

Clocks as a motif feature prominently in the short film, alluding to the lifetime time spent with company as ‘man and boy’, plus the time that has to be ‘filled’ in the days to come.

Core to the film is the dichotomy of Sidney’s identity – how he sees himself as a former worker on the shop floor (and then management), and how the company’s board members perceives his ‘duality’. As someone who straddles ‘both worlds’, he is in part complicit in the shape of things to come…

Thirty performers from the University of Roehampton’s Drama, Theatre and Performance department play the current generation of factory employees – their youthfulness serving as reminder to Sidney of their implicit trust in him and the fragility of their future.

The tone of Last Day shifts gradually throughout its duration. The stillness in the early scenes are reminiscent of British director Steve McQueen’s ‘less is more’ vibe in Hunger. Later, as we see guilt beginning to take hold in Sidney, what he imagines – both ‘plausible’ and ‘fantastic’ – evokes the unravelling of the protagonist’s mind in Denis Lehane’s Shutter Island.

With the current trend globally of people being laid off, Last Day is especially pertinent at present. But rather than veer down the road trod by films such as I, Daniel Blake, Last Day addresses the ‘inconvenience’ of having a conscience if one is in middle management and the choices that one has to live with… or not.

© Michael Davis 2020

People Show’s Last Day premieres on YouTube for a limited period, from Monday 19-23 October.

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