Doom's day

Sun 5th – Mon 27th August 2018

reviews

Jessica Loram

at 09:59 on 20th Aug 2018

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The end of the world is nigh. What do you do? Sprint to C South theatre and get yourself a ticket for 'Doom’s Day' by The Wax House. You won’t regret it. Based on the story of a ‘prepper’ for a future apocalypse, the play follows the incredible life of Joseph Badame who dedicates himself to building a shelter in anticipation of doom’s day. But this is no sci-fi fantasy or Louis Theroux style interrogation of a survivalist cult. Instead, this is an original, poignant – and successful – yoking together of America’s modern political history with one man’s extraordinary journey towards truly realising the value of human life and love.

Excellent physical theatre and use of visual and audio multimedia brings an otherwise sparse stage to life. I was impressed by the inventive uses of the staple props: the six plastic barrels, which double up as drums and stepping stones. Yet nothing feels lacking; the energy of the six-person cast is infectious and enthralling to watch. The actors rotate the role of Joseph as his story develops, either miming the words when extracts from their Skype conversations with him are played, or offering commentaries which help the audience keep up with the narrative’s fast-moving pace. In fact, my only gripe would be that the attempt to explain the torrent of political reasons for Joseph’s doom’s day prepping could have been aided by visual representation, too. More extensive use of the projector screen and photographic material would have reinforced the documentary style, and helped the audience understand the political complications better, as well as Joseph’s geographic movements.

Although the production is peppered with many brilliant moments (such as cheesy music and dancing to signal the arrival of the seventies), 'Doom’s Day' really comes into its own in the second half, as the scenes become less frenetic. We are granted a more intimate glimpse into Joseph’s marriage with his beloved Phyllis, and it becomes genuinely heart wrenching as we watch her health deteriorate.

Matilda Hadcock, a member of the cast, explains to me how Sound Technician Andrew Orr selected the most telling extracts from their Skype conversations with the real Joseph Badame to help patch the story together. He did an outstanding job. Hadcock also tells me that the cast’s research process involved reading the eclectic mix of novels written by Badame. This does not surprise me; the cast’s emotional investment in the play will captivate you throughout.

Now run for that ticket, before it’s too late!

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Tara Snelling

at 09:12 on 22nd Aug 2018

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I had no idea what to expect with this production, and what I actually see is nothing short of staggering. Gripping from the get-go, this show tells the story of Joseph Badame, a former survivalist ‘prepper’ bracing for the end of the world. The show intersperses interviews with the man himself, conducted by the cast, with a whistle-stop re-enactment of his life story from childhood to the present day. Throughout the production, the show also simultaneously stages its own story and the process of investigating this unbelievable tale.

Before the show commences, old-timey ballads echo out across an ethereal, empty stage, bathed in blue light. Following an introduction to ‘prepper’ survivalists, ‘Doom’s Day’ begins with a reconstructed Skype conversation between the makers of the show and Joseph himself. Our narrator is a mix of recorded audio from the real Joseph and, representing his fictional counterpart, Jake Mercer. Uncannily embodying the mannerisms of an old man, Mercer disappears into this role. All of the cast is a sensation and a special kind of versatile. The sheer range of characters every cast member takes on, lip-syncing precisely to words of interviewees throughout, is a testament to the commitment of actors – mastering not only the precise language, but the specific intonation of interview subjects.

The staging is beautifully done – from an ever-present, eerie projector to the multi-purpose barrel props, and the ingenuity of orchestrating a hurricane which puts ‘Hamilton’ to shame. Great care and imaginative thinking makes for very fitting staging choices. The show somehow offers a running commentary while reserving judgement, depicting the love story which emerges with his sweetheart Phyllis very delicately and maturely.

Profound, heartbreaking and soul-building, the discourse around what the ‘end of the world’ really means is truly tremendous. It is impossible to pre-empt, so try to go to this show knowing as little as possible.

I nearly missed out on this performance twice for non-apocalyptic reasons, and I’m so unbelievably glad I didn’t. The idea alone is phenomenal, but the execution is a masterstroke. It’s exceptional. Go for guaranteed goosebumps. This was the reason I came to the Fringe.

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