The Blue Room Theatre is a versatile venue, capable of extending a well-dressed stage into pre-show reality. Before being seated, the audience must pass a biohazard sign, enter through a bunker door, and traverse a cleverly-claustrophobic set littered with pop-culture relics, vintage props, bunk beds, and tinned food.
Curious eyes explore the bunker/stage, as Bowie sings subtly in the background. Eventually, the audience is shrouded in darkness and a screen appears, displaying a glitchy video diary, reality-TV-style. A man appears onstage, spotlit, with a glam-rock face. The show has begun.
Writer/director Terence Smith merges live theatre with pre-recorded videography to tell the tale of three siblings and a charismatic stranger, trapped together in an underground bunker. Holly (Bubble Maynard) is the protective membrane holding her family together, insulated as they are in their post-apocalyptic world. Carrie (Bianca Roose) is the affectionately-enabled baby of the family, leaving Marcus (Liam Longley) in the middle to grapple with his own issues. Their father is dead, and their mother is above ground, working towards a cure for Virus X.
During a supply run, Holly is followed back to the bunker by a stranger named Rich (Joe Haworth), who claims to have been sent by their mother. Marcus plies him with food and information, and Carrie claims to know who the man really is; both are enchanted by the smooth-talking interloper.
But Holly, the ever-responsible eldest, is deeply suspicious of Rich, who moves fluidly between the roles of hostage, co-conspirator, friend, crush, and enemy. Each of the characters interact uniquely with the new arrival, telling the audience more about themselves than about Rich, who – almost, but not quite – functions as a conduit for hidden agendas and repressed emotions.
During a stressful family board game, Rich makes a confession, after which an intimate moment between himself and one of the siblings leads to a horrifying revelation. When the strongest support snaps, the others must pick up the slack. However, in the heat of the moment, a potentially irrevocable action is taken.
Honesty prevails, but at what cost? Layer upon layer, truth is revealed, and the characters must shed their illusory skins, leading to a soul-crushing, record snapping crescendo; abrupt, but thematically resonant.
A script this tension-heavy demands versatility, which all four actors expertly deliver. Maynard and Haworth provide particularly powerful performances as Holly and Rich. Occasionally, the tension between characters is taut enough to counteract otherwise comedic elements, nevertheless, audience engagement is consistently palpable.
Pre-recorded scenes function as both necessary comic relief and glimpses into the unspoken intentions of these multi-layered characters, whose accurate representations of sibling bickering add casual relatability to nuanced characterisation.
Trust Me, It’s the End of Our World After All can be described as 70 minutes of dramatic tension tugging on four tangled threads. The characters unravel in different directions, pulling each other apart in the process. Beyond the Yard Theatre reflects a reality slightly less distorted than many of us would like to admit, providing potential springboards for lively post-show discourse.
This tasty, bunker-sized treat will satisfy even the pickiest audience members, particularly keen consumers of tinned rations and vintage records. With apocalyptic lighting, a suspenseful original score, and impressive set elements, this nuclear family drama is exactly what it sounds like: dystopian, imaginative, and disturbingly topical,
Trust Me, it’s the End of Our World After All
By Terence Smith
The Blue Room Theatre, Perth Cultural Centre
Director: Terence Smith
Producer/actor: Bubble Maynard
Costume/set dressing/make-up: Bianca Roose
Stage manager: Maddy Mullins
AV and sound design: Pete Townsend
Lighting: Jolene Whibley
Set and prop design: Owen Davis
Cast: Bubble Maynard, Joe Haworth, Liam Longley, Bianca Roose
Trust Me, It’s the End of Our World After All will be performed until 3 September 2022.