Photo credit: Theatre with Teeth
The lights flicker on to show two young men sitting at a table strewn with old newspapers and celebrity magazines. There is an oddly tasteful combination of a Star Wars poster and a grisly depiction of the Apocalypse adorning the back wall. This sets the scene for ‘Impending Doom’, a play written by Alex Benjamin and co-directed by Niamh Alice Percy.
Thrusting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse into the 21st century, they adopt the role of flawed, self-absorbed, twenty-somethings seeking a purpose in life – in a way that reflects the eternal quandary of what to do once finishing your degree.
The play opens upon main characters—Famine, Conquest and War—as restless pre-adults with nothing else to do but bicker. Famine takes on the role of the stereotypical slouchy teenager, a wave of sullenness and demotivation. Easily summed up in a single quote: ‘…I don’t care enough to be extreme.’ However the play shows the different facets of even this most ‘simple’ character.
Conquest is the resident philosopher. By re-evaluating his purpose, he acts as the play’s catalyst. He is the only Horseman who feels any misgivings about the act of exterminating humanity, and thus invokes a sense of pathos. War is, befittingly, a hard-boiled General, equipped with a traditional khaki military jacket; his swagger warped into the comical by his small stature and unfulfilled threats. He argues for the sake of arguing, his many rants adding a playfulness to the play.
The entrance of Death is a definite highlight in the play. The fourth Horseman strides in, polished and pompous, roving the play with some comic relief. Armed only with reason and a constant, slightly terrifying, smile, he uses his unwavering optimism to seize control of every situation. He puts one in the mind of the likes of Percy Weasley, or an exceedingly condescending cheerleader.
After God issues the order that the four Horsemen are in need of a therapist, things get out of hand. The shrink’s well-mannered attempts to get the three Horsemen to admit to their feelings are an entertaining sight. Then two disgruntled office employees from The Divine Heavenly Office of End-time Affairs decide to cancel the forthcoming Apocalypse, the Horsemen’s sole purpose for existing. The promise of a complimentary bagel softens the blow somewhat, but this sets in motion the soul-searching that constitutes the rest of the play.
Besides the amazing characterisation of the Horsemen, the office workers, Esther and Gideon, and the therapist Julia, there is ample swearing and running about, which only adds to the overall impact. Summable as a series of tantrums, arguments, and titillating blasphemy, made ridiculous yet quasi-profound by the strangely relatable characters and their complete inability to cope with life.
With brilliant acting, a tight script, and an original premise, this play proved a testament to all those involved.
Melanie Mackay & Amber Turner-Flanders