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BWW Review: HOW TO SURVIVE AN APOCALYPSE, Finborough Theatre

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Jordan Hall's play about relationships and the end of the world has its UK premiere

BWW Review: HOW TO SURVIVE AN APOCALYPSE, Finborough Theatre

BWW Review: HOW TO SURVIVE AN APOCALYPSE, Finborough Theatre Opening its doors for the first time since March 2020, London's iconic little Finborough Theatre is back. Jordan Hall's How To Survive An Apocalypse, an award-winning, touching and witty romantic comedy, also looks at the need to prepare for potential Armageddon.

Millennials Tim and Jen are facing a crisis in their marriage; Tim spends all day at home in his boxer shorts trying to find work as a video game programmer while Jen is desperately trying to save her lifestyle magazine.

Consultant Bruce is brought in to save the magazine and Jen takes a seemingly instant dislike to him. The problem is that she is also wildly attracted to him and when her best friend Abby meets him, she is also interested.

What follows is a fairly typical romantic comedy, run alongside a storyline of a prospective apocalypse. Bruce is a survivalist, preparing for the end of civilisation and prompts Tim and Jen to start getting ready for the end of days.

The concept prompts them to consider with whom they might want to spend their precious last days. For Tim it is automatically Jen, but Jen sees Tim as the representation of settling. This is a play focusing on the domestic; the greatest amount of jeopardy and danger is found in a disastrous camping trip where Tim and Jen's crumbling relationship finally tumbles down.

Kristin Atherton is convincing in her frustration as Jen; tired of her career disappearing and increasingly seeing her husband has someone who has tethered her down. Atherton is intense, hyperactive and increasingly annoying as someone who cannot see any of the good in her husband.

Noel Sullivan is thoughtful and passive as Tim. He becomes increasingly jaded as his ambitions also remain unfulfilled. Tim's nice blandness is contrasted starkly by Jen's restless agitation and the chemistry between the pair is not always obvious, which might be the point. Both are quite self-obsessed, but the personal fallout from their relationship breakdown is very touching.

Ben Lamb is slick and has great swagger as consultant Bruce, although a little more back-story would have been welcome in the writing. Christine Gomes has good comic timing as Abby, the friend who is coping with her relationship falling apart.

Hall's writing is often sharp and witty, especially the quick-fire conversations between Tim and Jen. The issue is that the play ends up feeling a bit like a sitcom, with winners and losers in love. Tim's realisation that Bruce and Jen have slept together is too rapid to be convincing, but the least plausible thing about the play is that Tim and Jen don't own any candles, surely a necessity in any millennial household?

The subject matter also prompts some consideration as to whether we should all start preparing for a disaster. How much bottled water would each person actually need to survive and can we still get brunch if the world ends? However, the writing fails to be explorative enough to be truly thought-provoking.

Jimmy Walters adds some nice detail to the production. Bruce deliberately takes dishes from Tim at dinner before he can serve himself, while Tim sits downing enormous glasses of wine to get through it. The movement feels very natural and the proximity to the actors feels intimate.

Ceci Calf's clever design is compact and very flexible in the small space. We see a flat, an office, a bar and a campsite, all complimented by Adam King's lighting and Julian Starr's thoughtful sound design.

Despite lacking in some depth, this is an enjoyable play, performed with energy and wit by the cast. Finborough theatre: it is great to be back.

How To Survive An Apocalypse is at the Finborough Theatre until 23 October

Photo Credit: Sam Taylor


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