Writers: Dom Coyote, Michael Vale and Tom Penn
Director: Dom Coyote
Reviewer: Daryl Holden
Songs for the End of the World has an undoubtedly intriguing premise. A part gig, part show following a man who, when the world turns on itself, is left suspended in Earth’s orbit on his way to kick-start a new Eden on Mars. Now, with nothing but time on his hands, he broadcasts his songs back to a still and silent Earth.
As far as excuses to create a piece of gig theatre go it’s quite an ingenious one, albeit infringing just ever so slightly on the original premise of David Bowie’s now infamous creation, Space Oddity.
That shouldn’t worry you though, this cast aren’t stealing ideas from Bowie, they’re taking them as their own and adapting them rather cleverly. And the influences from Bowie don’t stop there, in fact, they’re littered through the piece along with several other references to other artists. These references aren’t exactly hidden, nor have they tried to be, which is a lovely gesture, and it’s not often pieces of theatre are so open about their influences. Unfortunately, this is one of only a few good things this piece has going for it.
If you’ve come for a script and a gripping storyline, ironically, you won’t find it at the end of the world. It seems that in the creation of this piece, more care and attention has been given to the music and lyricism, and in doing so, the actual theatricalities have suffered because of it. There isn’t a lot happening in the script, and the characters that have been created are neither memorable or truly realised by their actors. A lot of the time, the text simply appears to be nothing more than filler to introduce the next song. A lot of the big moments and twists are rushed and can be seen coming a mile away, which is unfortunate because you really want to be invested in this piece. Rather than hold out its hand and walk with you, it runs ahead and expects you to blindly follow.
Not only is this script poorly brought to life, but it’s also very bleak. It rarely offers any reprieve from its anti-humanity, anti-establishment and anti-religion rhetoric. It’s almost impossible to get anything else out of this piece other than how demoralising the world we live in is because of how we let things like consumerism, the establishment, and violence rule over everything else. Of course, the themes of this piece are completely relevant to the society that we live in today, but it’s hard to resonate with them when they’re not at all subtly crafted and are constantly thrown at you from all sides. There’s nothing positive to take from this piece other than the idea that music is what will get us through everything. This is a nice thought, but in the real world we can’t exactly put on a pair of headphones, hit shuffle and pretend that current affairs have disappeared. This script can even be seen as counter-intuitive. Primarily because it gives the impression that since we haven’t ended the world just yet, things could always be worse.
Where you can jump in headfirst and not worry about the repercussions though, is the music. While your feet will be tapping along through the entirety of the performance, it’s disappointing that this is one of the few consistent features this show can offer. Dom Coyote and his band, the Bloodymoneys are magical to both watch and listen. What this show lacks in substance it makes up for in quality. It isn’t some half-bothered typical piece of gig theatre, this is the real deal. No one in the audience would have minded if these performers had missed the occasional note or chord because you’re absolutely absorbed by the enthusiasm on stage. They’re a pleasure to watch and the only problem is that you wish this same energy could have been transferred to their acting. The main problem lies in that these performers lovingly perform their music to such a capacity that we see who they really are, and when they try to get back into character, we see it as nothing more than a poorly drawn mask, and we don’t buy it. The songs themselves tell us more than the script could hope to. Filled with references, emotion and expert storytelling, each one has you from the first chord. You’ll wholeheartedly want to see Dom and the Bloodmoneys perform again, whether or not it’s as part of this piece is a different question.
Songs for the End of the World has its flaws, but that isn’t to say it’s a wholly bad show. With some tightening on the script here and there and a greater sense of character, it could stand to be one of the better pieces in its genre. At the minute though, the show only accomplishes half of what it set out to do. It’s a fantastic gig through and through, there is no argument saying otherwise. Whether or not it’s a fantastic piece of theatre remains to be seen.
Reviewed on 1 November 2017 | Image: Contributed