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SCAVENGERS by Bryan Oliver at The Etcetera Theatre

In eco-thriller Scavengers, written and directed by Bryan Oliver and set in the bowels of a London tower block, we are introduced to a terror-stricken world already destroyed by a deadly virus. The first character we meet in this post-apocalyptic universe is young Zeb (Grace Richardson), her gaze locked onto a cellphone screen and looking somewhat antsy and bored – is this just another day to endure in what appears to be a makeshift bunker stacked with food tins, candles, a fast-diminishing supply of bottled water and a gun. The gun is needed to protect Zeb from the Squire, a vicious criminal gang that captures and enslaves women who’ve survived the pandemic.

SCAVENGERS by Bryan OliverThe tower block proves an unsafe stronghold when Finn (Matteo Piombino), a young man seeking food and water, crashes into the bunker. In the ensuing confrontation between Finn and Zeb, we understand the dangers facing a human being in this dystopian world.

Zeb, holding Finn at gunpoint, must make a decision whether to shoot him or allow him to live. She is terrified he may be carrying the virus or acting on the orders of the Squire to capture and enslave her, while Fin is a quivering bundle of nerve endings and terrified he will lose his life. Both Richardson and Piombino are highly effective as characters who will do anything to survive, whether it be to kill another human being or to beg and snivel for their own survival.

After much pleading, Finn convinces Zeb he’s also on the run from the Squire’s henchmen, but before he can leave the bunker a screeching clank is heard, it is Wikki (Neil Hobbs), Zeb’s older lover returning from a scavenger hunt for food. How Wikki reacts to Finn casts some doubt on whether he is as paranoid and possessive as Zeb would have us believe.

But with Wikki’s entrance, Scavengers‘ plot point switches from the present dangers of the outside world and the need to possess food, to Finn and his seemingly urgent need to possess Zeb, with her fate to be decided in a battle between the two men.

But who is this Finn? Is he ‘just a mouthy kid’ as Wikki calls him? And what about Wikki and the life he’s led before meeting Zeb? Thanks to actor Hobbs’ understanding of the multi-faceted Wikki, we find a thoughtful and loyal man beneath his rough exterior.

This trio is full of surprises, not least of which is Finn’s passion for Motown and his wiggly dance moves which enhance the play’s lighter moments. And the small playing space allows the audience to share a sense of confinement with the actors. Sound is also used to startling effect, especially In the moments when we hear the clang of the tower block’s metal gates swing open. Special sound effects, lighting and set design were all worked on collaboratively by members of Urban Wolves Theatre Company.

But if there is a flaw in Scavengers it is its reliance on tabloid-style exposition in Finn’s recounting of the dehumanising crimes perpetrated by the Squire. Rather than functioning as informed dramatic content, it conveys a Daily Mail pornographic style of shock reportage, the ‘Isis heads in baskets’ headlines of recent tabloid history. Pointed reference, rather than over-blown exposition, would do a better job.

But this is a small critique against Scavengers‘ powerful story-telling of global destruction, tyranny and disease. And the play delivers a powerful statement. Even in the worst of times, love and the luminosity of the human spirit carry on.

4 stars

Review by Loretta Monaco

In a post-apocalyptic world, three scavengers battle against overwhelming odds to try and survive.

Set in the basement of a London Tower block after a major ecological disaster, Wikki and Zeb are lovers hiding away from the Warlord’s hunters. Wikki is much older than Zeb and when Finn, another survivor, breaks in looking for food and water, all their lives are thrown into danger and confusion. They are forced to confront sexual longings, fears, and deadly outside forces that threaten to destroy everything they believe and desperately cling on to.

Cast: Grace Richardson, Matteo Piombino and Neil Hobbs

Urban Wolves Theatre Co World Premiere
SCAVENGERS
by Bryan Oliver
Camden Festival at The Etcetera Theatre from 16-20 August 2023

https://www.etceteratheatrecamden.com/

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