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Last Sales Conference of The Apocolypse – Waterloo East Theatre

There’s a lot that goes on in Last Sales Conference of the Apocalypse, though there’s not a lot of sales going on – the apocalyptic backdrop rather renders closing deals pointless. Even after it becomes clear there is a method of reversing the chain of events that got an IT company called supportme (all one word, all lower case) embroiled in an international incident that is certain to cause, in a nutshell, the end of the world. But as the twenty-minute warning comes along early in the show, it’s not difficult to work out that there are twists and turns in the storyline that justify a full-length show with an interval.

Last Sales Conference of the ApocalypseIt’s an ambitious production that has various narrative strands. When Sam Worthington (Jonny Base) delves into his subconscious, the distinction between reality and fantasy is initially clear, but becomes less so as the show progresses. Three of the four on-stage characters have a substantial backstory, with a delivery man nicknamed T-Base (Daniel Nyari) proving to be a relative enigma, although, in Sam’s active imagination, he has a significant role to play in a television drama series called Regency Abbey, which is as unimaginative as it sounds.

Alison Harding (Katie Penfold) is commonly referred to as Stats, on account of having a head for figures, down to the number of sprinklers in a given working area. It later becomes clear where her obsession with health and safety, particularly escape routes, comes from. Then there’s Aesha Chastiani (Zara Evans), who amused me by taking a “missile launching selfie” for her social media followers – not that her selfie launched a missile, but that it had already been launched: I can imagine that would be the vain response of some people upon hearing impending doom.

In diving into the depths of repressed memories, some stretching as far back as childhood, the show ventures into the realm of the unreliable narrator: did everything that happens, as dramatised, really happen in the manner in which a character recalls it? At one point, a violin comes out, but it transpires there isn’t going to be actor-musicianship after all, and a series of other vignettes make for a baffling experience, even if there is some enjoyment to be had in the form of nods to Golden Age musicals in the form of top hats and dancing canes. The sound of tap shoes occasionally threatened to drown out the lyrics being sung at the same time – although fair play to the cast who multitask in the first place.

Then there’s the Voice of God (Marcus Bentley, of Big Brother fame), who doesn’t actually spout any religious proclamations (those are left, somewhat bizarrely, to T-Base) but nonetheless is perhaps the only character keeping things grounded, though even he finds himself in one scene announcing, in his distinct Geordie accent, “day four thousand and eighty-two” – of what? Elsewhere, it’s ‘game over’ for Stats when she plays a computer game where the rules are changed part-way through, and regardless of what course of action she takes, her opponent has absolute autonomy, such that she (Stats) can never win.

It’s an intriguing way of portraying coercive control, with Stats’ self-esteem slowly but surely being reduced until there is nothing left: domestic abuse is often portrayed on stage in a sudden and hard-hitting (in more ways than one) manner. Here, it’s closer to the lived experiences of many who have lived through it, a gradual process that is difficult if not impossible to easily extricate oneself from once one is well and truly entangled.

But I wonder if the miscellaneous amusements are so abundant that they start to detract from the deeper messages the show has to offer: the audience watches a ‘marrow parade’ (don’t ask) and some of the Regency Abbey period drama scenes could have been truncated without consequence. The surrealism seems to be indicative of what it is to not be in a healthy state of mind, but the production is effectively too successful in portraying it, coming across as unfocused and in need of some trimming. Still, a committed and enthusiastic cast work hard to bring not just a story, but several, to life.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Sam, the head of IT startup “SupportMe” (current valuation, £8.74, if we include the half-used box of tea bags) has just initiated a nuclear missile countdown with his bottom. This is scary, but also embarrassing. Utilising his team’s experience of prank-calling corporate helplines, Sam devises a plan to stop the launch. The plan does not go well, and unhelpfully, Sam passes out. He enters his subconscious, imagining himself as a showrunner who directs his staff to play roles in tv franchises.

Forgotten memories from Sam’s childhood start to emerge, memories that were locked away for good reason. Increasingly, Sam’s head becomes a battleground between himself and the rest of his team. Can Sam connect back to his lost memories and stop the impending apocalypse?

Skitzoid Productions present the PREMIERE of
Last Sales Conference of The Apocolypse
by David Bain
4 – 30 Oct 2022

Last Sales Conference of The Apocolypse
4 – 30 Oct 2022
https://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/

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