Apocatypical | Kambara Productions

Apocatypical | Kambara ProductionsCome Comedy Festival time, I never like to stray too far from the comforting candy coloured lights of Town Hall, which seem to redefine Melbourne as a happy city for these brief glorious weeks. Heading out to Northcote on a Sunday night feels like a trek to the end of the earth. Appropriate, then, that I'm going to see a show about the apocalypse.

In Apocatypical the world as we know it is spontaneously destroyed during the middle of a turgid performance of an Elizabethan drama, leaving only one lousy actor and two highly disgruntled audience members alive. The three (writer Sarah Breen as Townsend, Darren Lever as her brother Klein and Matt Bolger-Hobson as the actor Bourke) are now marooned in a theatre that stands alone in the middle of a toxic wasteland. They should be concentrating on the necessaries of survival but instead they can't get over their fixation with getting the interrupted show back on track. If any scenario is a more overt dramatisation of artistic angst, then I've yet to hear it.

So how did anyone make the end of the world into a comedy show, you ask? Well the answer is, they didn't really. Apocatypical, while it is absurdist, is for the most part a bleak existential drama that more properly belongs in the Fringe Festival. Perhaps its appearance in the Comedy Festival line-up is some form of reprisal for all the stand-ups now touting themselves as "fringe" acts come September.

To be fair, there are some moments which are genuinely funny, especially in the immediate reaction to the cataclysm. There is some amusing physical clowning and Breen's script has moments of wit in between the solipsistic psychological delvings. As it goes on though, the prevailing sense of despair become inescapable.

The downward spiral is briefly interrupted by the arrival of two other survivors, the mystical hipster Balthasar (Paul Brown) and his attractive but under-written assistant Murphy (Tilly Legge). Yes, only people with slightly silly names survive this apocalypse. Soon, however, these two start clashing with the others and hilarity (by which is meant paranoia, torture and murder) ensue.

The term "black comedy" gets used to hand wave a lot of questionable material into the comedy genre. ("Yeah, over half the cast wind up dead, but in a funny way!") However the overall intent of this piece is not comic but philosophical, an extended riff on the Shakespearean notion that the world is a stage, except with the world reduced to, literally, one stage and not much else. While I am an advocate of Comedy Festival shows expanding their range beyond punch lines and puns, Apocatypical is like being locked in a room with five people simultaneously having a nervous breakdown. Which undoubtedly would have its funny moments too, along the way, but would not overall be deemed a humorous experience.

So it's not comedy but is it a good bleak absurdist existential drama about apocalypse, isolation, murder and artistic angst, you ask? Yeah, it's alright. If you like that kind of thing. 

2012 Melbourne Comedy Festival
Kambara Productions


Venue: Northcote Town Hall | 189 High St, Northcote
Dates: 10 – 22 April, 2012
Times: Tue-Sun 7pm
Duration: 55 minutes
Tickets: $25 – $15
Bookings: 9481 9500 | www.northcotetownhall.com.au | at the door



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