8th June, 2017
Apocalypse is a collection of four short plays set in the lead up to a world-ending meteor strike. Taking them from room to room in a secret location, Fake Escape offers audiences one of the most interesting and immersive experiences of the Bath Fringe Festival. At the same time, however, it shows its bones in moments of underwhelming writing.
‘How Soon Is Now’ offers the most intriguing premise of the four plays – a meeting of two world leaders clearing the air before the impending apocalypse – yet doesn’t quite deliver with its contrived heated exchanges, thrown in for texture alone, and comedy (with exceptions) which doesn’t go much further than taking a couple of lazy pot-shots at Donald Trump.
‘Whatsoever Parts the Hoof’ does a better job of lampooning current affairs (again, Trump), but still tries a little too hard to be funny, and in its second half becomes a monologue shared between four actors with a distinctly preaching feel. It does, however, have great fun exploring a lively concept, allowing for vibrant interplay across the cast and especially showcasing Callum Hughes’ neurotic Mark, whose ramblings reach heights above the rest of the piece.
‘Silent Screams’, though starting strong with a poignant, subtle human angle, devolves into a by-the-numbers abuse story replete with a clunky closing speech borne well by its lead, Charlotte Dunnico, who gives a sympathetic portrayal as the run-down Fran.
Apocalypse’s best offering by far, in terms of writing and acting, is ‘Facehugger’. Louis Rembges’ writing straddles the border between funny and serious, managing to dip into one without the expense of the other. For the most part a monologue, Rembges’ the script is delivered masterfully by Ellis J. Wells, as he adds a disarming, personal nature to the flamboyant comedy, then manipulates that rapport with the shock of sobering changes in direction. It is at once the funniest and the most touching piece in Apocalypse.
In a way, it’s a shame that Apocalypse must be judged as a whole, being made up of elements varying in quality, yet at the same time each short play benefits massively from the superb direction of David Shopland. The manner in which the audience is led through the warren of Apocalypse’s short plays is tightly executed, with each scene staged as its own insular, microcosmic nest. Similarly, pacing is orchestrated to an impressive standard, keeping stagnation off and driving the production towards a moving conclusion, which adds a level of cohesion to the evening and a final mark of finesse.
*** – 3 Stars