The idea of taking a serious topic and turning it into a musical is not a new to the Fringe. Despite this, the concept behind
2016’s ultimate downfall is that it refuses to laugh at itself.
With the conceit of a family facing apocalypse, telling the story of how the world destroyed itself – i.e. what happened in 2016 – the show immediately felt under-rehearsed and over-acted, with speaking volume and sound levels such that it was hard to understand or hear a lot of what was going on. I would not normally critique a show for technical issues on their first day, but most of the singers simply lacked the lungs and diction to be heard over the keyboard, and I think this problem would not be fixable without bringing in microphones. When we could hear the singing, I would often rather have been spared it, and harmonies tended to miss the mark.
In terms of content, writers Jamie Dodd and Isaac Lawrence-Thompson have shoehorned in a love story, in addition to everything else you would expect in a show about 2016 – Brexit, Trump, celebrity deaths, etc. This feels unnecessary and inconsistent with the Pythonesque absurdism of the rest of the show. Meanwhile, the characters are simply not believable or relatable enough for us to care when they break up and get back together. As for the political satire, the dodgy impressions of various politicians mostly pander to stereotypes anyone who has been watching the news for the last year will be tired of seeing.
That said, the moments where director Daniel J. Barnes manages to show the ridiculousness of worldwide politics through good old-fashioned silliness are the best of the show. Seeing Trump and Clinton resort to simply yelling “Moron!” and “Emails!” back and forth to each other during a debate felt dangerously close to the truth. My highlight was a duet between Trump and Farage called I’m Not a Racist But… that had me laughing out loud.
However, 2016’s ultimate downfall is that it refuses to laugh at itself. The millennials who created and star in this show do not allow any self-mockery. Instead they go along with what has become the party line amongst young left-wing Westerners – that it’s the old white men who are responsible for all the woes of the world. This might be enough to entertain people who do not want their satire critical, but to me this simply felt like a regurgitation of memes and jokes I have heard a thousand times – albeit with original songs and a tap-dancing Boris Johnson.