BWW Review: BOOM, Theatre503

BWW Review: BOOM, Theatre503

BWW Review: BOOM, Theatre503Director Katherine Nesbitt leads the UK premiere of Boom, which premiered at the Ars Nova Theatre in New York in 2008. Following huge success in its first run, it became a favourite among producers, and it's not hard to understand why. Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's play is intelligent and apocalyptically funny.

After finding Jules's (Will Merrick) ad, in which the young man offers "intensely significant coupling", Jo (Nicole Sawyerr) finds herself caught in a situation of evolutionary significance when goes to his bunker for what she thought would be a different kind of night.

While Jo comes to terms with Jules's weirdness, a comet strikes Earth, killing all of the rest of the population and leaving them (and the fish he was studying) as the last beings under the strict supervision and meddling of Barbara (Mandi Symonds), a narrator of sorts whose role in the story is bigger than she lets on.

Sinn Nachtrieb takes a witty approach to dealing with themes such as evolution and the reason human being exist. He manages to give his characters a substantial amount of information (whether scientific or specifically background-related) to feed to the audience without arresting the narrative, and keeps the attention alive mainly through Barbara, whose character steals the show.

It becomes fertile ground for discussions, and the life/death dichotomy is only the start. Sinn Nachtrieb explores the relationship between sexuality and the moral obligation of furthering the species; present and past are characterised with the almost-supernatural presence of Barbara; the human power to create and nature's control of it; and so on.

The different attitudes the mismatched couples has gives the playwright the chance to explore disparate styles of comedy. Jules's nerdy attitude and physical awkwardness lead to a more obvious kind of humour, while Jo's form of intelligence and journalistic background makes her a much subtle and sarcastic character.

Merrick's awkwardness and lanky physicality give a peculiar dimension to his Jules, which is then juxtaposed with Sawyerr's self-assurance, gradually crumbling away. The actors' full ownership of the small stage combined with their push-and-pull and physical comedy add a dynamic visual aspect.

Symonds is genuinely funny as Barbara, who fuels the whole piece. At the helm of what might look like a machine, she controls both their lives but not hers. Her breaking of the fourth wall encourages direct involvement from the audience.

What might not seem a demanding play to produce actually needs a smart creative team to make it click. Nicola Blackwell and Robbie Butler (set and lighting respectively) make crucial contributions. Blackwell's apt, brightly coloured set is both bizarre and practical, fully mirroring Jules's mindset and offering a brilliant peek into his personality.

With Barbara pushing levers for the whole duration, it's essential for lights to represent the changes she makes directly. The main three 'settings' lighting wise are aimed at the two characters, Barbara herself, and the fish tank (which is a character from the beginning, so that Jo even talks to it multiple times in the second part), helping the audience navigate the levels of storytelling.

Certainly a different tale about the end of the world with an unexpected ending, Sinn Nachtrieb created an imaginative and colourful account of how such a small action can change the course of the world, and, as directed by Nesbitt, it becomes a clockwork machine bound to show the greatness of small things.

Boom runs at Theatre503 until 26 August.


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