Review: The Last Sales Conference of the Apocalypse

There’s a new musical from Skitzoid Productions in town at the Waterloo East Theatre, and it is one with a message – or to be accurate, several messages.

We are all present at a sales conference where techies Sam and Stats have hacked into a top secret military system, and in a moment of distracted romance with the delivery boy, Sam accidentally sets off a nuclear launch with his bottom.

Cue unconsciousness all round, and a role for the four person cast of characters in Sam’s subsconscious songfest. Dave Bain writes and directs this show, which runs two hours with a short interval, and manages to bring in some pretty dark topics from domestic violence to conversion therapy.

Fifteen songs frame the plot, and reminded me of the lip synching to old time tunes that runs through much of the television work of Dennis Potter. No stranger to mixing the difficult with the ditty, I wonder if it was an influence on Bain and Skitzoid’s thinking?

One moment which utilises a video game about personality and self-esteem uses the back wall of the stage to great effect, and I wonder if more of this could highlight other moments where the unspoken is teased out.

Jonny Brace leads the cast effortlessly as Sam, who has the moves, the levity, and the muted brashness of a queer boy in love. He even reminds me at moments of Bonzo Dog frontman Vivian Stanshall!

Zara Evans plays influencer Aesha with a strong singing voice and a iron stillness, while Katie Penfold’s quirky bonhomie gives a rounded feel to Stats. Daniel Nyari’s T-Base is fun and flirty as the delivery boy, and a fountain of arrogance as ‘Rev Cassock’.

Cassock is part of a lengthy segue from the main issues as Sam sets himself up as showrunner for a new period drama Regency Abbey (not to be confused with series of similar age and vintage). For me, this took up too much of the narrative while the cast chatted about horses, marrows and villagers.

Production photo from The Last Sales Conference of the Apocalypse

The Last Sales Conference of the Apocalypse is a clever and committed show which is perhaps trying to do just a little too much.

The inclusion of Marcus Bentley (the voice of Big Brother) is effective but I caught a weekend performance where he makes a brief real-life appearance (Friday-Sunday shows only).

The relationship between Sam and T-Base has promise but not enough room to bloom; while the hints at home trouble could do with a bit more power (the scene with Bentley has the tension, but when he isn’t on stage for it, I am unclear how it works).

All the cast are believable in their situation and movement, but the nuclear threat is not really explored that much or given the urgency a ten-minute countdown to oblivion would surely have.

Hearing the Voice of God (Bentley again) counting down the minutes is repetitive in act one, then largely forgotten in act two. An on-stage clock of some type might have added focus.

The second act is by far the strongest in the show, although there are enjoyable musical moments throughout. The songs stand on their own, and can be enjoyed on Soundcloud.

In terms of tech, the set (by Valentina Turtur) with few props is fully engaged, and the lighting takes us in and out of different situations and consciousnesses.

I enjoyed the inventive choreography (led by Julia Zlotnick) hinting at the classics of musical movies (yes, there are hats and canes at one point), and a Scooby Doo feel with the four principals (sans the dog).

This is a show which offers solid entertainment, but could still benefit from a little spit and polish. Do go and see what you make of it!

You can see The Last Sales Conference of the Apocalypse at Waterloo East Theatre until 30 October: book here.

Image credit: Steve Gregson

***

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