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Theatre review An exercise in irrelevance

Instead of Deliverance we are presented with an overlong, flat episode of Friends, writes SIMON PARSONS

How to Survive an Apocalypse
Finborough Theatre

CANADIAN playwright Jordan Hall leans heavily on climate change in her writing and How to Survive an Apocalypse is no different, turning to Survivalism — the skills and requirements of individuals preparing for imminent disasters.

This should be a timely drama with Covid ravaging much of the planet, fuel shortages and a pivotal, world summit on climate change only a month away, but unfortunately the premise is only a lens to observe a series of young, middle-class professionals and their relationship needs.

Jen, an overpowering and self-driven magazine editor, is faced with rebranding her creation from a publication for aspiring young professionals to one engaging with survival skills. Her husband Tim, a failed video game creator who lives his life though digital simulations, cannot compete with the square-chinned, broad-shouldered, arrogant, alpha male brought in as a consultant to oversee the transformation.

A camping trip to the wilds of Canada with those three and one of Jen’s recently separated, female friends proves to be the match that lights the passions and animosities, but instead of Deliverance we are presented with an overlong, flat episode of Friends.

The four aspiring yuppies (if that acronym still has any validity) do not develop much beyond stereotypical caricatures forced into fighting their corners and final scene, self-realisations are not enough to save them.

The rapid banter and social interchanges are predictable and the life philosophy tacked on in trite chunks at the end is heavy-handed. Employing a post-apocalyptic, bunker existence, as a metaphor for their approach to relationships is hackneyed.

The acting is not bad but it is let down by the dialogue that rarely rises above the level of an ad hoc US sitcom and the lives depicted are not relevant to most people: homemade cocktails, espressos, green tea facials and hollandaise sauce are not the cement that holds together most relationships.  

Kristin Atherton’s dynamic, ambitious writer Jen whose youthful dreams have gone astray is the passion and pace behind the show, but at times the strident attitude that hides her life disappointments is warring and director Jimmy Walters can do little to give this drama an edge.

Runs until 23rd October, box office: finboroughtheatre.co.uk

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