Mixing survivalism with psychoanalysis, Dave Bain’s Last Sales Conference of the Apocalypse is a fractured and confused trip that leaves us with more questions than answers.
There’s a lot of potential here, if only everything about this musical wasn’t so muddled
Set before a sales presentation, the CEO of the tech start-up supportme, Sam (Jonny Brace, accidentally triggers a nuclear meltdown. With the help of his employees Aesha (Zara Evans), Stats (Katie Penfold) and the delivery boy, T-Base (Daniel Nayari), he has to work through his mind palace and come to terms with his past trauma in order to save the world from annihilation. Whilst this musical appears to be trying to create a discussion around abuse, its forms and methods of dealing with trauma, unfortunately like everything else, it appears shoved in at the last minute.
Last Sales Conference of the Apocalypse has a lot of plot. It’s a rather confused story, because it has at least three moving parts; the imminent apocalypse, repression and coming to terms with abuse and Sam’s regency-era TV show. The reason we can tell that too much is going on is that if we remove any one part, the show makes just as much sense wiithout it and doesn’t particularly lose anythin. This is because each part is not particularly developed or utilised properly in the narrative, which gives the impression that it doesn't have any bigger purpose. It's just there and we have to accept that the focus has shifted for no particular reason. This musical tries to do a lot in order to explore the relationships between the characters fully, and the libretto frequently gives us a glimpse of the tension and conflicts that the characters have, but none of it appears to be resolved. Nothing seems to fit properly, even the title of the musical is misleading. Bain’s songs contain rather generic lyrics, and whilst upbeat and functional as self-contained snapshots of emotion, don’t particularly move the plot forward (as they should in a musical) and would be better suited to a song-cycle than a full-length musical.
The technical aspects of the musical don’t help to show the change in focus. Valentina Turtur’s set captures the futuristic, disaster bunker apocalyptic part of the show, but this appears to be such a small part of the overall narrative that it just adds to the confusion as we try and work out exactly what else is going on. Oliver Hynds lighting design, whilst staying true to the futuristic vibe of the set with the strips of LEDS in the wings, doesn’t always seem to match the emotions expressed in the songs, making the lighting rather jarring at points.
The actors work well together, building on each other’s performances, switching between characters and personas incredibly quickly. Apart from the odd flat note, the cast give a high energy performance, full of technical skill that is amusing to watch play out.
It is easy to get lost during the Last Sales Conference of the Apocalypse. Everything about it is misleading, and the fact that it's incredibly confused whilst dealing with an incredibly heavy topic and all of its manifestations, weakens it considerably. There’s a lot of potential here, if only everything about this musical wasn’t so muddled.