By Brenda Sandilands and Gillian Tunley
Reading University Dramatic Society’s (RUDS) captivating new musical leads us into an imaginary end-of-the-world scenario. A long-lost letter which foresees the doom and destruction of the planet is discovered – is a devastating meteor on its way?
The production was written and directed by the stellar Huw Smallwood, produced by the inspired Riddell Erridge and Amy Hubbard, with excellent technical effects by Izzie Sheldon and Jenny Sanders, slick choreography by Catherine Lane and taut musical direction by Jess Martin.
The theatre in the round draws us into a minimalistic set, where the cast clad in cheerful red dungarees debate ways of telling the story. The solution – of course, a musical! Catherine Lane (the charmingly naïve waitress Zoe) and Ben Carter (the loveable muesli-munching Jack) develop an improbable romantic liaison. The multi-faceted cast take turns as narrator, and shine in various roles, with slick costume changes from an onstage clothes stand.
Highlights include Melis Blackford (as a peremptory Prime Minister), Erin Kavanagh (Jack’s warmly solicitous mum) and Patrick O’Callaghan (a deliciously manic restaurant owner) and Teddy Turpin (as a crisply efficient Home Secretary).
Melodious ensembles, sweetly sung solos and even a smattering of rap (deftly directed by Jess Martin) weave their way through the plot, enhancing and lifting the mood..we particularly liked ‘dancing on a meteor, stretching the metaphor’.
We are transported back to 1918 and the discovery of a meteor by the astronomer Turpin; when he realizes it’s on track to collide with planet Earth in 2018, he records his observations in a letter which then goes missing. Smallwood’s clever script moves us forward to the present day: Jack and Zoe, who have recently met in unlikely circumstances, happen upon the letter and agonise over what to do for the best. Who should they tell?
A charmingly comedic masked forest scene, quirkily choreographed, lightens the impending gloom… they bravely decide to warn the world and a countdown begins. As the play ends, the countdown continues, leaving us on a cliffhanger of suspense… will civilisation cease? Or will it survive to allow other romantics to read the painstakingly penned letter…
While chatting with the cast after the show, we were impressed by their enthusiasm, energy and commitment. This is a thought-teasing and hugely entertaining musical that is sure to sell out during its run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on 13-18 August – book your tickets now!