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Review of Boom at Theatre503

BoomThere is a ‘boom’ in Boom – let’s get that out of the way. But it was as though the narrator in this most American play, Barbara (a bombastic Mandi Symonds), had been doing television shows for many years, and without the watchful eye of the Federal Communications Commission, the US regulator for broadcast media, now finds herself doing theatre, so she can swear to her heart’s content without being bleeped or worse still, fined. So Boom deploys the word ‘motherf– — er’ repeatedly, mostly, as far as I could tell, because it can. The first few times were amusing enough, but it gradually gets increasingly unfunnier, much like the show as a whole.

It’s like a train that’s run out of steam before limping into its terminus station, with a part-philosophical and part-self- congratulatory epilogue, taking the form of a monologue from Barbara that seemed to go on for longer than the average-length sermon in a local parish church on a Sunday morning would. Fairly recently, an actor told me that “people like their shows [to be] grounded” – this one is, I’m sorry to report, dramaturgically all over the place.

Rather like the 1728 satire The Beggar’s Opera, there’s a reprieve from a sad ending, because Barbara is able to pull the levers, in more ways than one, in such a way that has a direct impact on the show’s proceedings. This ‘anything goes’ approach is not disappointing in its own right, but the main problem with it is the missed opportunities as the play’s fullest potential is never realised.

There’s some great acting from the two main characters, Jules (Will Merrick) and Jo (Nicole Sawyerr), who make the best with what they’re given. But, goodness me, they’re not given much.

“Really? Again?” I thought to myself as it became clear the play explores the end of the world. How (un)original. There have been more than enough dystopian plays, books and motion pictures over the years – does the London stage really need another one? There’s not much this play adds to the canon of post-apocalyptic theatre, save for some witty punchlines in the awkwardness between Jules and Jo that pervades the plot from beginning to end.

Barbara’s inability to properly express herself results in missing words from sentences and exaggerated expressions, which will have worked better on a larger stage but in the studio space of Theatre503 (wonderful as it is), it’s overkill, to be blunt. Even so, Mandi Symonds is delightful in the role, and I wonder if this would work better as a one-woman show. There are glimpses of her life outside directing what essentially is a play within the play, and the character development could be substantially deeper if the show were really stripped back.

As it is, there are some mildly humorous observations about the limitations of budgetary (and other) constraints on this production. The stop-start, freeze-frame nature of the play makes it sluggish, however. “Please make this night worth surviving”, Jo pleads, bless her. It’s a bit of a stretch to say I shared Jo’s wish to be taken either by her own hand or that of Jules, but I did find it a struggle to maintain interest throughout. A talented cast is let down by an almost tortuously meandering script.

If there’s anything to be taken away from this bizarre and unfocused play, it’s that not even the end of the world can stop ruthless and cutthroat management styles from continuing to rear their ugly heads.

2 gold stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Jules, a marine biologist, placed a personals ad offering “sex to change the course of the world”. Jo replied and has come to Jules’ lab expecting a hot night of no strings sex. But this is no casual encounter, it has evolutionary significance and the future of the human race hangs in the balance.
Will they survive? Will we survive? What’s with the fish tank? And who is the strange woman in the corner?
Cast: Will Merrick (The Rack Pack (BBC), Skins (E4)), Nicole Sawyerr & Mandi Symonds (1984, West End)

Announcement Productions in association with Theatre503 presents
BOOM
Running Time: 1hr 35 mins
Written by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Directed by Katherine Nesbitt

ARTISTIC TEAM
WRITER – Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
DIRECTOR – Katherine Nesbitt
PRODUCER – Ian Melding
DESIGNER – Nicola Blackwell
LIGHTING DESIGNER – Robbie Butler
SOUND DESIGNER – Callum Wyles

CAST
JULES – Will Merrick
JO – Nicole Sawyerr
BARBARA – Mandi Symonds

Booking to 26th August 2017
https://theatre503.com/

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