Skip to content

Dead End

by on 7 March 2019

Grief: A Self-Help Manual

Dead End

by Kathryn Gardner

Subtle Paws at Cage, The Vaults, Waterloo, until 10th March

Part of The VAULT Festival (Week 6)

Review by Abigail Joanne

Kathryn Gardner, writer and performer of Subtle Paws Theatre Company, presents Dead End at this year’s Vault Festival. Vault has teamed up with Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust to open up conversations around death, dying and grief. “Some shows will make you laugh. Some will make you cry. All will get you thinking. Death affects us all. Let’s talk about it.”

Dead End opened at The Vaults in their space named The Cage. The graffiti tunnels and the dark underground theatre was the perfect setting for a show about to tackle what is often perceived as a grim subject.

Upon arrival into The Cage we are seated in a cosy, humid and dark room, and there are leaflets on our seats with illustrations instructing how someone can be of help to a loved one who is grieving. “Ask questions” and “Let them be sad” reminds me of a difficult reality, but one that can be navigated more efficiently and with more heart, if given the right tools.

We are facing towards a scene scattered with rubbish, and a bench with tatty work tape strewn across it has ‘PRODIGY’ scratched into its surface. Our first character is humming Breathe – a fitting homage to the sad news this week that Keith Flint passed away by taking his own life.


Caretaker Lance (Paul Collin-Thomas) talks to himself and the audience, sometimes wandering off stage, and he informs us that his tools keep mysteriously going missing, only to turn up again in a different place. His manner is somewhat simple but nevertheless light-hearted.


The next two characters come onto the stage, one carrying a spade and the other dirty with mud. Here we have Sue (Gardner) and Carol (Chloe Wigmore), who chat about what the Caretaker might be up to, and how might they feel if he disappeared?

Sue clearly finds it difficult getting in touch with her real feelings surrounding grief, and the two chat away in slang phrases which is endearing, as they are obviously avoiding getting real about their feelings on the matter.

When the plot takes us back to Lance, we see Carol looking into the distance, a worried look on her face, and we might wonder what it is that she really wants to say, but cannot?

All three characters capture a wonderfully British charisma; keeping things light-hearted yet making sure it’s still evident that they care. It certainly makes a point about British culture and our often-lacking ability to connect to this difficult topic. Yet we also see the importance of making light in challenging times, and how grief can also eventually lead to new opportunities, such as friendships.

There are many unanswered questions, each character carrying an unexplained plot of their own, such as the dead body left to rot in the sunshine along with the chicken shop bones and empty buckets, or the appearance of a dead cat who has been kept in a cool bag for two weeks after being murdered at the pub.  This might be a pointer to the plays title Dead End, leaving us with more questions than answers.


There’s a lot within the plot to be missed that I think mirrors the theme of avoidance (which of course, is one of the stages of grief) and our cautiousness of entering too far into a topic that can leave us feeling all too vulnerable.

It’s an interesting play, one that is definitely worth a watch and one that is open to interpretation. For some it may fall flat but I was encouraged to look beyond the bizarre plot lines and see what was really going on for each of the characters.

I was left wondering, where is the balance between finding comfort in making light of a situation, and paying respect for what is a difficult reality we must all come to terms with and honour?

Cue Eleanor Rigby.

We are the wheelbarrow, moving forwards whether we like it or not.

Abigail Joanne
March 2019

Photography by Freya Evans

From → Drama, Fringe, Reviews

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: