Producers: Harpy Productions and Sophie Rivers
This evening of theatre is billed as a virtual night of new writing themed around the apocalypse. A nice touch is that it raised funds for the Samaritans, recognising that for many their mental health has been affected by this strange new isolating world. The performances are streamed live, and although we have worlds set in Canada, UK and somewhere in space, it is difficult to know whether this is a global cast.
There are eight original pieces with similar variations on theme. The evening opened with Music, singled out for its poetic monologue, written and performed by Lata Nobes. Although still partially on-script, Nobes takes her time, looking directly at camera, and she is engaging as a mother who shares with her child memories of the world before the apocalypse. Other pieces are more cryptic. Playwright Miranda Barrett aims to explore themes of spirituality and war with There Are Two Wolves but sadly, in addition to the opening few minutes hindered by a white background noise, Theodor Spiridon’s loose direction did not make much of the actors Oriana Charles and Patrycja Dynowska, or this puzzling parable.
The idea for this themed evening might stem from The Apocalypse Kit written by, and featuring Sophie Rivers as Rose, a vlogging influencer in the futuristic year 2039. Set in Canada, her country is on the edge of ecological disaster, but Rose persists with her glossy and fake take on world events. This is one of the longer pieces of the evening. Although it engages with contemporary themes of exploration to Mars, media manipulation and a thinly veiled attack on America’s current provider of Fake News, the script has yet to adapt to a virtual setting. Director Sabrina Richmond choose to stay within single static settings, and Rose vlogs while holding her mobile at arm’s length; an unlikely tech platform nineteen years from now.
The penultimate piece Dire Straits is an effective retelling, by Lin Robinson, of the survival story trope: desperate people resorting to cannibalism. Judith is the weakest and so the answer presents itself. What is thrilling here is Pippa Winslow, who plays to great effect the musical timbre of her voice when portraying Judith as older and frail. Equally exciting is Amelia Pearce’s direction when playing with pictorial space. Keeping with four simple split-screen head shots, when Judith is forced to step away from the group, her camera zooms out to a wide shot of an enormous white wall where Judith crouches, shrinking against the endless space. Her vulnerability is there for all to see, but there is a twist in the tail as the survival of the fittest might surprise us all.
The standout piece for writing, acting, and directing is Hannah Kennedy’s touching play Fire. The world is ending in fifteen minutes while two ex-lovers finally reach out to each other. Director Nell Baily makes the perceptive choice not to pretend that the actors are in the same space. Instead, she stages this drama as a reading, with attention to character and story. Mogali Masuku and Sam MacGregor are allowed space to respond to each other with emotional acuity, delivering compelling performances. The separate virtual environments add a further layer of interest as Masuku’s ever hopeful Carrie plays against a brilliant white background, while MacGregor’s opaque Michael is set in a room of black wallpaper ordained with gold and red flowers.
As the evening creeps toward the two-hour mark The Beginning of Everything, by Monica Cross set in space 400 years from now, deserved an earlier slot. It moved away from previously seen ideas and equally insightful was character Cindi’s (EM Williams) pronoun they/them, deftly capturing themes of identity as still sharply in focus hundreds of years from now.
The evening required attention to technical elements; clashing music between plays and their opening scenes was disruptive. Small details were missed, such as making sure character names regularly appeared in Zoom screens. With direction, much of the evening’s static settings were disappointing. But, at its heart it did succeed in connecting themes of human contact— reaching out in a time of loneliness.
Reviewed on 17 August 2020