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Rapture at The Etcetera Theatre – Review

RaptureAccording to Google, the current population of the world is 7.429 billion and with a current growth rate of 1.13% per year around 80 million extra people are added to the planet every year. By any definition, this growth is unsupportable and at some point, uncomfortable decision by those in charge may have to be made. Welcome to Lisa McMullin’s Rapture currently at Camden’s Etcetera Theatre.

A nondescript room in an anonymous building is sitting empty apart from two chairs with some personal effects sat on them, four white squares on the floor, a mirrored wall and CCTV cameras all around. Into this room walks a nattily dressed man (Ryan Kennedy) with a box. He picks up the items and puts them in the box, then goes out again. He returns followed by a young dishevelled man who introduces himself as Ossie (Darryl Oakley). Ossie speaks to the man, who pretty much dismisses him and then leaves the room. However, Ossie isn’t on his own for long and Kameron (Rik Grayson) comes in. He couldn’t be more different to Ossie with his smart suit and well groomed appearance. The two speak to each other and we start to get the idea that all is not right in the world. They have both given in their citizenship cards before coming into the room, along with other personal items. It transpires that Ossie is a bingo caller whilst Kameron is an Independent MP. The two are joined by teacher Cleo (Jennifer Tyler) and finally by Whitney (Olivia Quinn), recent winner of the anniversary series of Big Brother and darling of the tabloid press. The four strangers are getting to know each other when once again the dapper man enters the room. He explains the current socio-economic situation and the extreme steps taken by the government to remedy them. To put it in a nutshell, the population of the UK needs to be reduced by around 15 million and this needs to happen rather quickly. Certain measures have already been taken – much to the disquiet of the four listeners – and now it is time for them to play their part. They have to first provide a consensus answer to two questions, then each be interviewed and finally decide which of them is going to live. As the tension mounts, truths and hidden personalities are revealed as each person must answer the ultimate question “what is the point of you?”

A long time ago whilst in the RAF, I was on a leadership course where we were put in a room and given a similar scenario to play out – we all were given an individual character and had to vote who to expel from a nuclear fallout shelter into certain death. Now I don’t know if writer/director Lisa McMullin has ever been on one of these courses but I can honestly say the writing was spot on as the final decision had to be made. What I really liked about this play was the background information, especially the unwitting complicity by MP Kameron in bringing about his own space in the room. Full credit to all the actors for building the tension beautifully but a special mention has to go to Ryan Kennedy as the Auditor. From his first entrance and the sneering manner in which he didn’t give his name, or shake hands with Ossie, the Auditor established his place on the pecking order. This was a civil servant of the highest calibre carrying out the Parliament sanctioned requests of the elected government with no thought of people or lives, the consummate Sir Humphrey Appleby, assured in his belief that the end justifies the means. Ryan played him perfectly with a camp, sneering attitude found in many gay bars when someone over 30 asks a twinky barman to serve him. Ryan was particularly excellent during the interviews where every question and facial response was timed to perfection as he brought out personal details about each of his interviewees.

All told, the acting and writing were extremely good and I suppose my one minor criticism was that at only 70 minutes running time, it wasn’t possible to fully develop each character in a way I would have liked, particularly as my ideas about who should go and who should stay were in a constant flux. I also got a bit lost on timings and wasn’t sure how long the four had been in the room before they had to face their final decision. However, the ending, where the characters voted, was extremely interesting as, surprisingly, only one character voted to save themselves and another cast their vote in a very unexpected direction. Personally, I would have gone a different way entirely so who am I to judge?

Ultimately Rapture is a very dark one act play set in a post Orwellian future – which is getting closer every day. It is extremely uncomfortable to experience as it makes every person watching face the unfaceable, start questioning their own worth to the planet and wonder how, in the same situation they would be able to justify being that 1 in 4 that goes on to enjoy their life once more.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

What is the point of you?
In a world where most diseases can be cured, living is no longer a human right. You have to earn it.
The world cannot sustain its growing population. People just aren’t dying like they used to and the UK needs to downsize.
Across the country thousands are being selected to appear before a board to justify their continued existence.
Never mind what L’Oreal says, are you worth it?

In this psychological drama, five very different people have to give the interview of their lives.

7th to 26th June 2016
Etcetera Theatre
above the Oxford Arms
265 Camden High Street
London NW1 7BU


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