How to Survive an Apocalypse

The renowned Finborough Theatre is still alive and well as witnessed by its latest production of Jordan Hall’s How To Survive An Apocalypse presented by Proud Haddock. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the The Finborough Arms pub, downstairs, which unfortunately fell victim to the economic impact of the pandemic and is now closed until new owners are found. The play has come a little late for them!

This production highlights the talents of all involved

In any case it would have been of little help as it doesn’t quite do what it says on the tin. While mundane precautions for the end of days certainly feature throughout the piece, this apocalypse is more about dealing with disasters people face than a study of eschatology. Hence, it is not just one apocalypse but a series of actual and potential catastrophes in the lives of four people; more millennials in crisis than getting ready for the end of the millennium

Jen (Kristin Atherton) and Tim (Noel Sullivan), married for five years, currently have more pressing matters to deal with, anyway. He is a well-meaning game designer who is out of work and feeling somewhat inadequate. She is the editor of a lifestyle magazine that faces financial collapse. The chair of the board, whom Jen regards with considerable suspicion and sees as a threat, brings in Bruce (Ben Lamb) to sort matters out. He is a survivalist of the hunting, shooting and fishing type. Though Jen resents his presence she develops an attraction to him and also takes up her own apocalyptic preparations in the form of storing rice and making jam. Open another strand in this story with the introduction of Abby (Christine Gomes), her best friend from university days, who has recently come out of a relationship and becomes the ideal candidate for being introduced to Bruce, because you’d never do anything with your best friend’s new boyfriend nor indeed betray your husband, would you?

The complexities of these relationships smoulder through act one but ignite in the second half when this wonderful quartet of actors really show what they can do. Atherton dominates the action with Jen’s storyline and powerful delivery but also manages to calm herself to reflect upon her situation. Sullivan captures Tim’s vulnerability and sense of inadequacy and frustration with his present predicament but pulls out some surprising strength of character when the occasion demands. Lamb exudes an air of professional competence and plays the smooth yet macho man who appeals to both women and it is no wonder that Gomes with her soft voice, stunning looks, charming presence and a wonderful outfit makes him fall for Abby, who also knows her own mind and is not an easy catch.

The production is backed by a strong team of creatives. The Finborough Theatre operates in a tight space and it is always remarkable to see just how much designers can achieve within its confines. Ceci Calf’s set is initially minimal. The built-in sofa against the wall is basic but the sense of being a home in which artistic people live is supplied by an overarching wooden web, while the sole table features as part of the dining room, the office and an integral support for the tent when everything is transformed into a woodland campsite. Lighting by Adam King changes appropriately with locations and moods, but it is stunning in the bar scene with deeply warm colours that transform the setting. All of this is accompanied by the outstandingly subtle yet enhancing soundscape created by the theatre’s Associate Sound Designer Julian Starr who accoplished the feat from his native Australia where he is currently sitting out the pandemic.

Directed by Jimmy Hall, this production highlights the talents of all involved. It’s a pity the play is not more tightly focussed and clearly defined in dealing with the ostensible topic and the lives of its characters.

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Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

This is the UK premiere of Jordan Hall’s hit comedy.

 “You start planning for the end and you have to start thinking— if you wind up trapped in a 300 square foot fallout shelter, is this really the guy you want to see every day?” 

 Jen and Tim are a young and successful millennial couple who become convinced that their urban party lifestyle is coming to an end. They start preparing for the end, hoarding supplies and learning to hunt. But their obsession takes its toll, and both are forced to imagine the apocalypse without the love of their life. 

A tender, hilarious, and touching story about dreams, love and the desire to survive. 

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