Review: Armageddapocalypse 2.5: Armagedinburgh

Ben Millwood 20 June 2011

Armageddapocalypse 2.5: Armagedinburgh

ADC Theatre – 15th-18th June 2011

For such a boldly-titled production, Armageddapocalypse 2.5: Armagedinburgh began quite sedately. The audience is settled in with a talking heads making-of piece that methodically satirises all the usual targets of ridicule in the film industry (yes, exactly the ones you are thinking of right now) before the show really begins, and though it goes on for a little longer it needed to, it provided a bedrock of affectionate parody and deadpan surrealism, from which the main event could launch itself in a manner not entirely dissimilar from a ballistic missile.

The play, once begun, was exactly as absurd as the title promised, full of silly puns, pantomimic stupidity, and voices rivalling Batman’s in gravel per unit speech. Lucien Young and James Moran’s talent for ridiculous spectacle blends excellently with the measured nonsense of the making-of, and the periodic returns to the latter in the form of “director’s commentary”, delivered with remarkable believability by Johan Munir, provide a welcome change of pace.

So the play benefits from both understated and overstated delivery, each complementing the other by their contrast: paradoxical, yes, but not even the only impossible thing it gets away with. The presentation is a spectacular mix of the endearingly naff, epitomised in the cute shadow-puppetry interludes, and a genuinely impressive swordfight between Moran and Young at the climax. Earlier on, Tamara Astor in a gunfight takes a Matrix-style evasive backwards cartwheel: undeniably impressive. Moran delicately helps her legs over to complete the move: brilliantly rubbish. It’s hard to say which of the two aspects made the audience burst into applause, but she – they – fully deserved it either way.

I never saw Armageddapocalypse on its first run, so I can’t easily compare the two, but I’m told there were genuine explosions, so I’m somewhat sorry that the budget couldn’t extend that far again. In fact, for a play that predicates itself so firmly on the virtues of things rapidly fragmenting, surprisingly few explosions, even CGI or implied, actually take place, and those that do could have been greeted with a little more ceremony. Though I said the shadow puppetry and the clearly-someone’s-laptop-screen projection (you could see his CV on his desktop before he started the film) were adorable, and I stand by that, I don’t think the occasional audio de-synchronisation was the appealing kind of amateur, nor was the use of lighting particularly ambitious or expressive (the only exception to which was the exotically coloured dream sequences, which provided a refreshing change of otherwise quite bare scenery). So there were ways in which the silly fun low-budget feel leaked into a conventional low-budget feel and behind all the sheer, fantastic audacity of the script, the production behind it didn’t always keep up.

These are nitpicks, though, and there were plenty of touches that surprised in the other direction – the making-of was faultlessly put together, the props were appropriate and usually of high quality (again, the sword fight was a definite high point), and the actors took their roles with relentless energy and conviction. Munir’s Zack-Jack ‘the Zach’ Jackson managed his role particularly superbly; his face and tone never betraying the absurdity of his words.

Overall, then, there’s too much to love about Armageddapocalypse to let any of the niggles really upset you. It’s so relentlessly good fun, one can believe that if the audience were all suddenly swept away by a hurricane, they’d finish the show anyway just for a lark. The script has multiple independent instant-classic moments, and though it’s straightforward enough that you can often work out the punch line before it arrives, the occasional moment of homoeroticism or sudden segue into teen high-school drama is more than enough to keep you on your toes.

The real success of Armageddapocalypse is, given the choice between being quaint or slick, clever or stupid, reserved or demented; it has enough material and talent behind it to smugly tick “all of the above”. You and your friends will be able to hold entire conversations just quoting lines and giggling, and that labour-saving device alone is enough motivation to give it a go.

Ben Millwood