by Laura Kressly
With the world as it is, it’s fair to feel like the apocalypse is coming and there’s nothing us powerless citizens can do about it. In that context, making a show about how we’re all doomed seems a rather reasonable response. Doom and gloom shows are a dime a dozen at the fringe, and these two address a particular brand of disaster with varying results.
In new play Outside, cities have enforced curfews on their residents due to a spate of deadly terrorist attacks. For the first time in nearly a year, the country has been deemed safe enough to lower the threat level and the curfew is being lifted at midnight. Young people can finally get shitfaced outside of the house, so Charlie, his flatmate Ed and Charlie’s girlfriend Rosie are planning a big one. But Charlie recently discovered a secret about Rosie and plans to propose to her that night, so he’s hoping there will be even more to celebrate.
The script quickly shifts its focus to the domestic, addressing parenthood, mental health, PTSD, family, with only a little bit on the general state of things. It tries to do way too much, and consequently underplays the wider issues at hand. We never hear about the circumstances of the attacks, and the government-imposed curfew, though ominous, is never questioned. There’s not enough of a connection between the micro- and macrocosms of the play’s world, making the world outside this tiny flat pretty much redundant despite this moment in time supposedly hinging on it.
Some dramaturgical refocusing would go a long way here and give this new play a much bigger impact and relevance. As it stands, the self-absorbed characters come across as largely privileged and detached from the problems of the real world.
Fallout has got this integration of narratives sorted, though. Fringe veteran Lotta Quizeen returns this year with a new play, this time set in a post-apocalyptic bunker. The audience are survivors who’ve found their way to the last safe place in Europe after Trump and Kim Jong-Un engaged in nuclear war. The domestic goddess has fully prepared for all eventualities, and has even included some luxuries – like Waitrose’s Essential Macaroon Mix. She’s supposedly there with some of her family, and seems largely unaffected by the disaster. Or, at she does at first.
Since we’re all there for the long haul, or at least until radiation levels start dropping, we are given a daily schedule and determined who is the most useful. A few people are also tasked with repopulating humanity – a rather daunting task. Lotta’s cheer slowly disintegrates as she shares her worries about her family, however. Though it’s nice to see a more well-rounded character, the script starts to lose its way towards the end and we are released into the world with little fuss.
Like Outside, some minor adjustments to the story’s arc, particularly in the latter third, will give this solo performance much more strength. There are some great connections between the personal and the wider world in Fallout, but the there’s not quite enough detail in the familial narrative to carry the sense of a world totally falling apart.
Outside runs through 27 August.
Fallout runs through 26 August.
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